Legislation passed this fall allows for more remote license renewals, supports the study of futuristic license plates, exempts drivers and passengers in some open-air autocycles from helmet requirements, and makes it easier to buy an alcoholic beverage the day after your twenty-first birthday. Continue reading
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released this report on fatal motor vehicle crashes in 2018. The number of traffic fatalities nationwide decreased modestly last year as did the number of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities. In North Carolina, the number of fatalities in both categories modestly increased in 2018. In the aggregate, neither the national nor the state numbers reflect much change in the fatality rate associated with traffic crashes generally or impaired driving-related crashes specifically. While there were precipitous declines in alcohol-impaired driving fatalities from 1982 to 2000, since that time the number of impaired driving-related fatalities has remained rather constant. A similar plateau exists for all types of traffic fatalities, for which the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled has remained relatively static for the last decade. This flat trend line has safety advocates wondering what they can do, particularly in the impaired driving context, to push the trend line toward zero.
My colleagues and I traversed the state last week speaking at fall conferences for various associations. One conference staple is the criminal law case update. I created a criminal law quiz for one such session, and I thought readers might want to try their hand at answering ten criminal law questions recently addressed by the appellate courts. So, here is your quiz:
Brittany Bryant was charged with misdemeanor larceny for allegedly stealing acne toner and towelettes valued at $14.94 of from a Wal-Mart in Raleigh. The prosecutor agreed to reduce the charge from larceny to shoplifting. She accomplished that in a manner familiar to district court practitioners. She struck through the charging language of the citation, wrote in “shoplifting,” and initialed and dated the document. Bryant then pled guilty to shoplifting by concealing merchandise and was sentenced.
Bryant later sought to set aside her conviction on the basis that the prosecutor improperly amended the citation. The court of appeals agreed, holding in State v. Bryant, ___ N.C. App. ___ (October 1, 2019), that the amendment was improper and deprived the district court of jurisdiction.
Bryant has left many wondering how misdemeanor charges may be amended to charge different, and less serious, offenses without subjecting the convictions to collateral attack.
While I was finishing up my post last Wednesday on Senate Bill 682 (the bill implementing the 2018 constitutional amendments expanding victims’ rights), the Governor was signing that bill into law. In the week since S.L. 2019-216 was chaptered, I’ve fielded a couple of questions about the responsibilities for notifying victims of court hearings and the interplay between victims’ state constitutional rights and defendants’ rights under the state and federal constitutions. This post sets forth my (admittedly preliminary) thoughts on those matters.
Author’s note: Senate Bill 682 was signed by the Governor on September 4, 2019, and was chaptered as S.L. 2019-216.
Last week, the General Assembly ratified Senate Bill 682, which implements the 2018 constitutional amendment that expanded the rights of crime victims. The bill, ratified one day before the constitutional amendment took effect, awaits the Governor’s signature. This post briefly reviews the history of state-law protections for crime victims and the provisions of the 2018 amendment before discussing some of the more significant aspects of SB 682.
The North Carolina Supreme Court held in State v. Terrell, __ N.C. __ (Aug. 16, 2019), that a private party’s limited search of a defendant’s thumb drive did not frustrate the defendant’s legitimate expectation of privacy in the entire contents of the electronic storage device. The detective who searched on the heels of the private party could not be virtually certain that he would find nothing else of significance on the device or that his search would do no more than corroborate what the private searcher had told him. Thus, the court concluded that the detective could not lawfully search additional folders on the thumb drive without a warrant after the private party turned the device over to law enforcement.
Author’s note: The opinion discussed below was withdrawn and replaced by In re D.W.L.B, ___ N.C. App. ___ (Sept. 17, 2019). The new opinion concludes, for the same reasons provided in the earlier opinion, that the petition failed to allege that the juvenile made a false report concerning mass violence. The new opinion omits the portion of the earlier opinion holding that the petition properly alleged a violation of graffiti vandalism, explaining that even though the petition alleged facts that could constitute the crime of graffiti vandalism, the petition did not put the juvenile on notice that he needed to defend against a graffiti vandalism charge.
An elementary school student writes “BOMB INCOMING” on the wall of the boys’ bathroom at school. The student does not, in fact, know of any plans to bomb the school and has made no such plans himself. Has the student committed a crime or an act of juvenile delinquency? If so what crime or crimes has he committed?
Populate the poll below with your answer or answers and keep reading for mine.