Shea posted here about a 2019 opinion from the Sixth Circuit holding that chalking tires for purposes of parking enforcement was a Fourth Amendment search and rejecting at least some of the proposed legal justifications for the practice. That case led to some further proceedings and eventually to a new opinion, Taylor v. City of Saginaw, Michigan, 11 F.4th 483 (6th Cir. 2021), holding that the suspicionless chalking of tires (1) is a search, (2) is not justified as a community caretaking function, and (3) is not justified as an administrative search. The Taylor court ruled that the law was not previously clearly established, so the parking officer whose conduct was at issue was entitled to qualified immunity. But going forward, warrantless tire chalking is a no-no in the Sixth Circuit. Now another circuit has weighed in with a different perspective. Continue reading
Yale Law School graduate and Oath Keepers founder Stuart Rhodes was convicted this week of seditious conspiracy for his role in the January 6 storming of the United States Capitol. Reuters reports here that one of Rhodes’s codefendants was convicted of the same charge, while others were acquitted of that offense but convicted of obstructing an official proceeding. Both crimes carry statutory maximum penalties of up to 20 years in prison, but it remains to be seen what punishment the federal sentencing guidelines will recommend. Trials against additional Oath Keepers and Proud Boys are scheduled to begin soon. Keep reading for more news. Continue reading →
I am pleased to announce that Joe Hyde has joined our faculty. He will be working in the area of criminal law, especially as it relates to prosecutors. We hope he will post on this blog and expect that he will take the lead on maintaining NCPRO, our online resource for prosecutors. Joe will also work with the Conference of District Attorneys on prosecutor training. He will surely have opportunities to work with other groups of court officials as well, so be on the lookout for his smiling face.
Joe brings enthusiasm, great intellectual curiosity, and substantial experience in criminal law to the table. He is an honors graduate of the UNC School of Law. After completing both state and federal appellate clerkships, he took his talents to the North Carolina Department of Justice. He worked there for eleven years, most recently serving as a Special Deputy Attorney General representing the state in criminal appeals and post-conviction litigation. He argued more than 40 cases in the appellate division, including just a couple of weeks ago prevailing in the Diaz-Tomas case about which Shea blogged here. He has also presented to and advised prosecutors in the course of his work at NCDOJ.
We’re excited to have Joe on board, so please join me in welcoming him. It is only his third day on the job, but he is already available to advise and consult with prosecutors and other public officials. You can reach him at email@example.com.
The Supreme Court of the United States has held that trash left for collection at the curb is not subject to a reasonable expectation of privacy and therefore may be searched by the police without a warrant. See California v. Greenwood, 486 U.S. 35 (1988). So-called “trash pulls” are now a routine feature of drug investigations. When officers find drugs, drug residue, drug paraphernalia, or other indicia of drug activity in the trash, does that provide probable cause to support the issuance of a search warrant for the associated residence? Continue reading →
As I write this, Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes is in federal court in San Francisco for sentencing. She was convicted of defrauding investors and owes restitution of more than $100 million. She could potentially be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison, and given the loss amount, federal prosecutors have asked for a 15-year sentence. Holmes is asking for house arrest, and has submitted letters from Senator Corey Booker and over 100 other people in support of her compassion and character. Plus one of the letters says that she’s pregnant, and another says that her dog was “carried away by a mountain lion” from her front porch. The Verge has some highlights and a link to her sentencing memorandum here. Keep reading for more news. Continue reading →
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court decided New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, 597 U.S. __, 142 S. Ct. 2111 (2022), holding that New York could not constitutionally require residents to show a special need (beyond the general concerns about self-defense that any person might have) in order to obtain a permit to carry a handgun outside the home. I wrote a detailed summary of the case in this prior post. North Carolina doesn’t require any such showing, so the direct impact on our state was minimal.
However, Bruen’s holding arose from a new interpretive approach. The Court rejected the intermediate scrutiny test most lower tribunals had used when analyzing gun laws and replaced it with a historical analysis in which a limit on gun rights is constitutional only if it is “consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.” Lower courts have now begun to apply this framework to assess the constitutionality of various gun laws. The early returns suggest that Bruen’s impact may be substantial across a wide range of federal and state gun laws. Continue reading →
The election this week had some notable results. Republicans swept the races for appellate judgeships, shifting the state supreme court from majority Democrat to majority Republican. In Columbus County, Jody Greene was elected sheriff just weeks after resigning the same office. He resigned after District Attorney Jon David filed a petition seeking to remove him based in part on racially-charged comments he made during a recorded phone call. This local story indicates that District Attorney David is planning to file a new removal petition against Sheriff-elect Greene. A similar pattern nearly played out in Franklin County, where former clerk of court Patricia Chastain, who had been removed from office by a superior court judge, narrowly lost her bid to be elected back to the same position. This pre-election story has the details. Keep reading for more news. Continue reading →
In State v. Parker, __ N.C. App. __, __ S.E.2d __, 2022 WL 4850255 (Oct. 4, 2022), the Court of Appeals considered the warrantless search of a vehicle that took place at a gas station. The court upheld the legality of the search based on probable cause that the vehicle contained evidence of drug activity. In the course of its opinion, the court stated that “the automobile exception [to the warrant requirement] . . . requires that the vehicle be in a public vehicular area.” Is that right? Continue reading →
A few weeks ago, I mentioned that a Florida jury divided on the proper sentence for Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz, with the result that he was to receive a sentence of life without parole. The formal sentencing hearing took place this week, and while the outcome was a foregone conclusion, many surviving victims and relatives of deceased victims addressed the court – and the defendant. Their words were sometimes raw and angry, and at other times preternaturally compassionate. Excepts from their statements appear in a number of stories about the sentencing hearing, including from CNN and the Associated Press. Continue reading →
Law enforcement agencies are having difficulty recruiting and retaining sworn officers. The situation is “a crisis for law enforcement,” according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police. This local article highlights some of the numbers here in North Carolina. At the time it was written, the Raleigh Police Department was short 150 officers, Winston-Salem was short 20%, and Asheville was short 41%. The Marshall Project offers a contrary view here, arguing that federal jobs data don’t support the concern, but most law enforcement leaders I’ve talked to recently are profoundly worried about staffing, recruitment, and retention. Can the increased use of civilians to do jobs formerly done by sworn personnel be part of the solution? Continue reading →