This post provides summaries of the opinions of the North Carolina Court of Appeals published on August 20, 2019.
Author’s note: The opinion discussed below was withdrawn and replaced by In re D.W.L.B, ___ N.C. App.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.
I recently traveled to New York City to do some sight-seeing. I noticed that I wasn’t the only one doing the looking. The New York Police Department has mounted security cameras on poles all over Manhattan. They are well-marked and conspicuous. Seeing them made me wonder about challenges to this kind of surveillance in light of the Supreme Court’s decision two terms ago in Carpenter v. United States, 585 U.S. ___, 138 S.Ct. 2206 (2018), holding that a person has a legitimate expectation of privacy in the record of his or her physical movements as captured through cell-site location information (CSLI). The court based its opinion in part on a person’s reasonable expectation that law enforcement will not constantly surveil his physical movements. Though video recorded by a law enforcement camera differs from CSLI in its scope and in the type of information collected, some have argued that the privacy interests identified in Carpenter also are implicated by the government’s use of pole-mounted surveillance cameras.
Back in 2017, I wrote about murder charges premised on the unlawful distribution of drugs and what the State must prove to establish a defendant’s guilt. One element the State must prove is malice.
This legislative session the General Assembly created two new crimes penalizing the distribution of certain drugs resulting in a person’s death: death by distribution and aggravated death by distribution. S.L. 2019-83 (H 474). A distinguishing feature of the new crimes is that they require no proof of malice. Continue reading →
Last month, I traveled to a hotel located on the Eastern Cherokee Indian Reservation, or Qualla Boundary, in Cherokee, North Carolina to teach at the summer conference for North Carolina prosecutors. Probably because I had crime and criminal prosecution on my mind, I found myself wondering what happens when a person commits a crime on the reservation. What law applies? Who enforces the law? Who prosecutes the person – and where? I thought I’d do a little research and quickly find the answers. As it turns out, a complicated combination of federal, state, and tribal law governs Indian Country, including the Qualla boundary. And the answers to these questions vary depending on the race of the perpetrator and the victim and the nature of the crime.
Late last month, the Supreme Court decided Mitchell v. Wisconsin, 588 U.S. ___ (June 27, 2019), a case in which the petitioner argued that the State of Wisconsin violated the Fourth Amendment by withdrawing his blood while he was unconscious without a warrant, following his arrest for impaired driving. Like many other states, including North Carolina, Wisconsin has a state statute that permits such blood draws. The Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed the petitioner’s conviction, though no single opinion from that court commanded a majority. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide “[w]hether a statute authorizing a blood draw from an unconscious motorist provides an exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement.” Though no justice found such a statutory exception and the judgment below was vacated, the outcome was not a win for the petitioner. Instead, a plurality of the court announced a State-favorable exigency rule, which it instructed the lower court to apply on remand.
Suppose the State is prosecuting a defendant for the sexual assault of a young child. Though the child has been identified by name in the arrest warrant and investigative reports provided to the defendant, the State would prefer not to name the victim in the indictment. May it refer to the victim in that document as “Victim #1”?
May a law enforcement officer who personally investigates, but does not observe, a vehicle crash testify as to his opinion about who was driving the vehicle? Does the answer depend upon whether the officer is qualified as an expert in accident reconstruction? The court of appeals considered those questions in State v. Denton, ___ N.C. App. ___ (June 4, 2019), decided yesterday.