A few years ago, I wrote a blog post (here) about the corpus delicti rule. That rule popped up in a recent court of appeals case, State v. Messer. Here’s a refresher and an update on the new case. Continue reading →
As many blog readers know, I’ve been offering my free Criminal Case Compendium since 2008. The Compendium is a collection of U.S. Supreme Court, Fourth Circuit & published N.C. criminal law, procedure and evidence case summaries, arranged by subject. Until now, folks have accessed the Compendium online as a massive 900-page PDF, containing over 3,000 case summaries. That worked okay, but we knew we could do better. And we have. My Criminal Case Compendium has just been re-released in a new format: A dynamic web-based version, designed to help you find the law you need even faster. The robust search feature puts real power behind your keyword search, sorting cases by relevancy. And if you like navigating through a table of contents, that’s still there, only amped up a few notches on the “usability scale.” Continue reading →
In June, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in Carpenter v. United States (No. 16-402) (docket here), a case involving the intersection of technology and the Fourth Amendment and application of the third-party doctrine to digital data. In this post I’ll preview that case. Continue reading →
Some offenses can be proved by alternative theories. For example, impaired driving occurs when a person drives while (1) while under the influence of an impairing substance, (2) after consuming a sufficient quantity of alcohol that the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more at any relevant time after the driving, or (3) with any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance or its metabolites in his or her blood or urine. See Jessica Smith, North Carolina Crimes: A Guidebook on the Elements of Crime (7th ed. 2012). The three options noted above constitute three separate theories upon which an impaired driving conviction can rest. Similarly, kidnapping occurs when a person (1) confines, (2) restrains, or (3) removes a person and other elements are satisfied. Id. The three options—confines, restrains, or removes—constitute three separate theories upon which a kidnapping conviction can rest. Sometimes alternative theories are bound up in the definition of an element of an offense. For example, first-degree sexual assault with a child requires, among other things, that the defendant engage in a “sexual act” with the victim. Id. The term sexual act is defined to include, in part, (1) cunnilingus, (2) analingus, (3) fellatio, and (4) anal intercourse. Id. These acts constitute separate theories that can support a sex offense conviction. Continue reading →
In State v. Harbison, 315 N.C. 175 (1985), the North Carolina Supreme Court held that when defense counsel admits the defendant’s guilt to the jury without the defendant’s consent per se ineffective assistance of counsel occurs. The Harbison Court reasoned that when counsel admits guilt without consent, it is essentially the same as entering a guilty plea on the defendant’s behalf without the defendant’s consent. It concluded: “ineffective assistance of counsel, per se in violation of the Sixth Amendment, has been established in every criminal case in which the defendant’s counsel admits the defendant’s guilt to the jury without the defendant’s consent.” Id. at 180. Continue reading →
A recent Court of Appeals opinion turned on a point of law that sometimes trips up folks in sexual assault cases: When a juvenile is alleged to have committed a sexual assault requiring proof of a sexual purpose, the State has to prove more than the act itself. Continue reading →
As many of you know (mainly because you’ve tried to contact me and I haven’t been available!) Chief Justice Mark Martin appointed me to serve as Reporter for the Criminal Committee of the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice (NCCALJ). This month the NCCALJ is holding public hearings on its reform proposals. One draft proposal, from the Criminal Committee, calls for North Carolina to join the majority of states in the nation and raise the juvenile age to 18. This post provides an update on the Committee’s work on that issue and hopefully will facilitate your comments on the draft proposal. Continue reading →
The General Assembly recently enacted a new “revenge porn” statute. S.L. 2015-250. The law actually gives the offense a tamer name: Disclosure of Private Images. The statute takes effect December 1, 2015, and applies to offenses committed on or after that date. Here’s what you need to know about the new crime.