The North Carolina Supreme Court held last week in State v. Diaz-Tomas, ___ N.C. ___, 2022-NCSC-115 (November 4, 2022), that neither a criminal defendant nor the court has the right to compel a district attorney to reinstate criminal charges that were dismissed with leave pursuant to G.S. 15A-932 due to the defendant’s failure to appear. The case arose in Wake County, where the district attorney’s office reportedly would reinstate misdemeanor charges dismissed with leave under G.S. 15A-932 only if the defendant agreed to plead guilty and to waive his or her right to appeal to superior court for trial de novo. As a result, Diaz-Tomas’s only option for ending the indefinite license revocation that was imposed for his failure to appear is to plead guilty to the driving while impaired charges that were dismissed with leave. This post discusses the state supreme court’s analysis and considers how it might apply in other circumstances.
The role of artificial intelligence (AI) in American life was a hot topic of discussion at a conference for judicial educators that I attended earlier this week. The conference launched with a screening of the documentary Coded Bias, which explores disparities in the data that inform algorithms for a range of computerized functions from facial recognition to loan eligibility to insurance risk. The documentary highlights the vast amount of data collected and controlled by a small number of large U.S. companies and the lack of regulation governing its use. A panel of experts spoke after the screening about what judges should know about AI. Several of those topics related to its use in preventing, investigating and punishing crime. Continue reading →
The North Carolina Judicial College was founded in 2005 to expand the education and training the School of Government has provided for judicial branch officials since the 1930s. Judicial College funding has enabled the School to provide more courses for a growing court system and to offer training in small group, interactive educational settings.
Our latest annual report, which we are distributing to judicial officials in hard copy form, highlights new projects, publications, and personnel. We thought you might want to check it out.
I am particularly proud of last year’s additions to our already strong core of educational offerings and publications in juvenile law. Sara DePasquale published a new edition of Abuse, Neglect, Dependency, and Termination of Parental Rights Proceedings in North Carolina along with an updated Stages of Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency Cases. Jacqui Greene published a 2022 edition of Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act: Implementation Guide. Together, they launched an Advanced Certification in Juvenile Justice, a program that allows district court judges presiding over juvenile court to pursue a new certification through an expanded course of study.
In addition, Meredith Smith and Jan Simmons published in March 2022 the North Carolina Clerk of Superior Court Manual Series, a robust web-based collection of reference materials examining the law related to judicial proceedings conducted by clerks. The online series replaces the traditional print manual with a resource that is searchable and easy to access and navigate on a laptop or mobile device.
As always, we are grateful to the Judicial Branch officials we are privileged to serve and to our partners at the Administrative Office of the Courts for our longstanding partnership and their ongoing support.
When a person is convicted of driving while impaired under G.S. 20-138.1, the person’s license is revoked for one year. G.S. 20-17(a)(2); G.S. 20-19(c1). (A person who has one or more prior convictions for an offense involving impaired driving may be subject to a longer period of revocation, depending on when those offenses occurred.) At the conclusion of that one-year revocation period, the person may seek to have his or her license restored by furnishing proof of financial responsibility and by paying a restoration fee of $140.25. G.S. 20-7(c1), (i1). The license then may be restored with a restriction prohibiting the person from operating a vehicle with an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more at any relevant time after the driving. G.S. 20-19(c3). That restriction, listed on the driver’s license as Restriction 19, remains in effect for three years. This post addresses how such a restriction is enforced and the consequences for a substantiated violation. Continue reading →
Wilmington News Station WECT broke the story Wednesday that Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene was recorded in February 2019 making racially-charged comments to Jason Soles, then a Captain who had just been tapped as the temporary leader of the department. Greene’s tenure as sheriff was clouded with controversy from the get-go, beginning with a challenge to whether the recreational vehicle located on farmland he owned in Columbus County was his residence, an issue decided in Greene’s favor by the state elections board. That challenge led to the naming of Soles as caretaker for the department while the elections issues were sorted. Keep reading for more on this story. Continue reading →
A few years ago, I wrote this post analyzing criminal jurisdiction on the Qualla Boundary in Western North Carolina. I explained the jurisdictional rules for prosecuting crimes committed on the Qualla Boundary, or Eastern Cherokee Indian Reservation, as follows:
North Carolina has exclusive jurisdiction over a non-Indian who commits a crime defined by state law against another non-Indian on the Qualla Boundary.
North Carolina has exclusive jurisdiction over a non-Indian who commits a victimless crime defined by state law on the Qualla Boundary.
The federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over “major crimes” committed by Indians on the Qualla Boundary.
The federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over non-Indians who commit crimes against Indians on the Qualla Boundary.
The federal government has jurisdiction over other crimes committed by Indians against non-Indians on the Qualla Boundary unless the defendant already has been punished by the tribal court.
The federal government has jurisdiction over victimless crimes committed by Indians on the Qualla Boundary unless the defendant already has been punished by the tribal court.
The tribe has jurisdiction over an Indian who commits a crime that is not defined as a “major crime.”
Update. A decision from the United States Supreme Court last term likely changed one of those rules. The Court in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta, 597 U.S. ___, 142 S.Ct. 2486 (2022), held in a 5-4 decision that the state and federal governments have concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed by non-Indians against Indians in Indian country unless state jurisdiction is preempted.
Last July, the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) launched a new application for generating criminal process and pleadings: eWarrants. This application replaced NCAWARE and is part of the court system’s migration to eCourts, a digital system that will replace the current paper-based system for maintaining court records. Given the scope of eWarrants, it may not be surprising to hear that the rollout was not seamless. Indeed, the thousands of magistrates, clerks, deputy clerks, and assistant clerks who became immediate users of the application soon identified defects and issues, many of which have subsequently been resolved. One such issue was the application’s failure, in certain circumstances, to print out charging language on criminal process and pleadings such as magistrate’s orders and warrants for arrest. When the issuing official does not immediately detect and remedy such an error, a judge who later holds a first appearance on such a charge may wonder how to proceed. This post will review the judge’s options in such a circumstance. Continue reading →
Earlier this year, the North Carolina Court of Appeals in Edwards v. Jessup, 282 N.C. App. 213 (2022), considered whether a license revocation hearing in which a hearing officer employed by the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) both elicited and evaluated evidence, ultimately ordering revocation, violated the petitioning driver’s right to due process. Spoiler alert: The Court held that the DMV hearing process did not violate the driver’s constitutional rights. Continue reading to learn why.
To prove impaired driving, the State must establish that the defendant drove a vehicle while impaired. A person drives when he or she is “actual physical control of a vehicle which is in motion or which has the engine running.” G.S. 20-4.01(25). Sometimes the State may establish driving through direct evidence. For example, a law enforcement officer or another witness may observe the defendant driving and may testify to that fact. In other cases, a law enforcement officer may encounter the person the officer believes was driving after the driving has concluded, perhaps in or near the car or at some other location. In those cases, the State may seek to establish driving based on circumstantial evidence. The Court of Appeals’ recent opinion in State v. Rouse, 2022-NCCOA-496, __ N.C. App. ___ (July 19, 2022), considers when such circumstantial evidence is sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss.
Last week, Jamie blogged about the 2021 Structured Sentencing Statistical Report from the North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission. As Jamie noted, that report contains detailed information related to felony and misdemeanor sentences imposed in Fiscal Year 2021, including the most commonly used felony grid cell, the number of convictions by district, average probation length, and typical sentencing outcomes for the most charged offenses. Because that report analyzes felony and misdemeanor convictions and sentences imposed under the Structured Sentencing Act, it does not include information about one of the most commonly charged misdemeanors in North Carolina: driving while impaired, which is sentenced under the sentencing scheme set out in G.S. 20-179. The Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission prepares a separate report each year analyzing those convictions, and the Driving While Impaired Convictions Statistical Report for Fiscal Year 2021 is available here. Read on for highlights from the report, which contains data about convictions under G.S. 20-179 from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021. Continue reading →