This blog is full of posts about the laws governing sentencing for misdemeanor DWI. Until now, however, I haven’t written much about how DWIs are actually sentenced. That’s because I didn’t know. While the North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission (“Sentencing Commission”) annually publishes a statistical report on the sentencing of felonies and misdemeanors, that report doesn’t include information about DWI sentences, which are governed by G.S. 20-179 rather than the Structured Sentencing Act. Thanks to the Sentencing Commission’s recent focus on DWI sentencing, however, I now have statistics about how DWIs are sentenced in courtrooms across North Carolina. And I think you’ll be interested in what they show.
Shortly after I published last week’s post on State v. Babich, an astute reader asked about the court’s harmless error analysis. How, he inquired, could the improper admission of expert testimony that the defendant had an alcohol concentration of 0.08 be harmless error? Did the jury’s verdict indicate that it found the defendant guilty only under the “under the influence” prong of impairment rather than under the “alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more” prong? To answer these questions, I had to dig into the record on appeal and provide a bit of background on the requirement for jury unanimity in DWI cases. I thought others might be interested in my response.
I wrote in September 2015 that the court of appeals’ view of the admissibility of retrograde extrapolation under Daubert did not look much different from its take on the admissibility of that evidence under old Rule 702. As of yesterday, it does. The court of appeals in State v. Babich, __ N.C. App. __ (2017), changed the green light for retrograde extrapolation testimony in DWI cases to yellow. Continue reading →
I have a “friend” whose teenage son was caught using his cell phone in class. The teacher saw him using it and took the phone. She looked at the phone when she picked it up and saw displayed on its screen a snapchat from another student in the class. So she took the other student’s phone too. My friend wanted to know what the teacher’s options were after that. Could she search the contents of the cell phones she had seized? Continue reading →
A pedestrian enters a crosswalk. A car approaches. Does the race of the pedestrian influence whether the driver stops the car or continues to drive through the crosswalk? Continue reading →
Criminal procedure aficionados, close your red books and riddle me this:
A district court judge in a DWI case preliminarily grants a defendant’s motion to suppress. The State appeals to superior court. The superior court affirms the district court’s determination and remands the case for entry of an order suppressing the evidence and dismissing the charges. The district court enters the order. Does the State have the right to appeal?
Just a few short years ago, self-driving cars seemed futuristic. Now the future is here. If you drive in the Triangle, self-driving cars will soon appear on a road near you. Continue reading →
Everyone knows that having a criminal history is bad. John wrote earlier this week about C-CAT, an on-line, searchable database that helps folks identify many of the non-criminal consequences of a conviction—like losing a professional license. The criminal consequences of an earlier conviction are, in contrast, much easier to figure out. A criminal record generally results in greater punishment for new crimes. For a handful of North Carolina crimes, a prior conviction for a similar offense increases the grade of the new offense – sometimes converting what would otherwise be a misdemeanor to a felony. Special rules govern the charging, arraignment, and trial for such offenses. The failure to follow them is the subject of considerable case law from our state’s appellate courts, including two recent opinions from the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
Among the questions I am most frequently asked is: What is the proper charge when a person violates an alcohol concentration restriction on his or her driver’s license? As soon as I answer that question, the next one comes in: Is the answer the same if the person violates an ignition interlock restriction? When I say that it is not, additional questions follow. If you too are unsure about the rules for charging and processing a person who is suspected of violating one of these types of license restrictions, I’m hoping the rest of this post will clear things up. Continue reading →
The court of appeals held last month in State v. Turner, __ N.C. App. __, 793 S.E.2d 287 (2016), temp. stay allowed, __ N.C. __ (2016), that the issuance of a magistrate’s order charging a defendant with driving while impaired did not toll the two-year statute of limitations applicable to misdemeanors. The court reasoned that the provision setting forth the statute of limitations, G.S. 15-1, was explicit in requiring that an indictment or presentment be issued within two years. The court said that only one extension of this rule had been recognized: Pursuant to State v. Underwood, 244 N.C. 68 (1956), a defendant may be tried upon a misdemeanor charged by a warrant within two years of the offense. Because Turner was not charged by presentment, indictment or warrant and the State failed to “commence the prosecution of its case” within two years of the offense, the court of appeals ruled that the trial court properly dismissed the charges.
Last month’s blog commentary included a lively dispute about whether trial courts are bound to follow Turner given the state supreme court’s issuance of a stay. Regardless of whether Turner is binding precedent (and I don’t think it yet is, given the stay), trial courts may rely on its reasoning. Moreover, the state supreme court may ultimately decline to review the opinion or, if it does grant review, may affirm its holding. Thus, prosecutors across the state are considering whether and how the State may satisfy or toll the statute of limitations for misdemeanors charged by citation or magistrate’s order.
There are at least four categories of such misdemeanors, and the implications for each are discussed below. Continue reading →