The legislature is in session and a bill to make the Moravian cookie the official state cookie was introduced this week. According to my admittedly casual research, only a few states have official cookies. The first was New Mexico, which adopted the biscochito/bizcochito as the state cookie in 1989. Judging from this recipe, it seems to be sort of a cinnamon sugar concoction made with brandy. Read on for even more impactful news. Continue reading
Last week, in Part I of this series, I discussed whether having a drug dog sniff a vehicle is a search if the drug dog might alert upon smelling hemp, a substance that is legal to possess. Today’s post focuses on what may be an even more significant question: if a dog alerts, does the alert provide probable cause to search? Continue reading →
Attorney General Josh Stein now appears to be highly unlikely to be charged criminally over a campaign ad he ran in the last election cycle. The ad charged that Stein’s opponent in the 2020 election – Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill – “left 1,500 rape kits on a shelf leaving rapists on the streets.” O’Neill complained to the State Board of Elections, contending that the ad was false and violated G.S. 163-274(a)(9), which makes it a misdemeanor to “publish . . . derogatory reports with reference to any candidate . . . knowing such report to be false or in reckless disregard of its truth or falsity, when such report is calculated or intended to affect the chances of such candidate for nomination or election.” The Board recommended taking no action, but Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman asked the SBI to investigate further, and ultimately informed Stein that she was planning to submit the matter to a grand jury. Stein then sued in federal court, asserting inter alia that the statute is unconstitutional and seeking an injunction against Freeman. The district court declined to issue a preliminary injunction, but this week the Fourth Circuit said that it is pretty sure that the statute is unconstitutional and so the district court should reconsider. The main problem with the statute is that it “likely criminalizes at least some truthful speech,” namely, a “derogatory report” that is made in “reckless disregard of its truth or falsity” but that turns out to be true. Although the Fourth Circuit did not expressly instruct the district court how to proceed, any path forward for criminal charges now appears to be narrow at best. WRAL has more here. Keep reading for more news. Continue reading →
Hemp and hemp products are now legal under state and federal law. Hemp is the same plant as marijuana and contains the same chemical compounds, though in different concentrations. Could a drug dog trained to detect marijuana alert on legal hemp? If so, does that impact whether a dog sniff is a search under the Fourth Amendment? And does it mean that a drug dog’s alert no longer provides probable cause to search a vehicle? This two-part series tackles those questions. Continue reading →
The New York Times story about Tyre Nichols’ funeral is here. Rev. Al Sharpton delivered the principal eulogy, but there were many speakers, including Mr. Nichols’ mother and Vice President Harris. A common theme was a desire to see changes in policing. The Vice President specifically demanded that Congress pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Relatives of Mr. Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Eric Garner were among the mourners. Keep reading for more news. Continue reading →
May an Officer Stop a Car to Serve an Occupant with a Subpoena or Other Civil Process?
Suppose that Victor Victim was the victim of a non-fatal shooting. Law enforcement has charged Dan Defendant with the crime, but Victor is not enthusiastic about testifying against Dan and has not cooperated with the police and the prosecutor in the run-up to the trial. The State has issued a subpoena to compel Victor’s attendance. Olga Officer is out looking for Victor when she sees him driving by. May Olga stop Victor’s car in order to serve him with the subpoena? Continue reading →
The Associated Press reports here that “[f]ive fired Memphis police officers were charged Thursday with murder and other crimes in the killing of Tyre Nichols, a Black motorist who died three days after a confrontation with the officers during a traffic stop.” The officers allegedly beat Mr. Nichols to death. All five have been charged with second-degree murder among other crimes. Video of the incident is expected to be released to the public today and those who have seen it describe it as “horrific.” In a local connection, the Chief of Police in Memphis is CJ Davis, who served in a similar position in Durham until 2021. Chief Davis fired the five officers and has described their conduct as “a failure of basic humanity.” The officers’ attorneys say that they have little information about the case but that none of the officers intended to kill Mr. Nichols. Keep reading for more news. Continue reading →
The national news this week focused on the discovery of classified documents at President Biden’s home in Delaware and former private office in Washington. Yesterday, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a former federal prosecutor as Special Counsel to investigate the matter. The Associated Press explains here that “The position of Justice Department special counsel is a fairly new creation, enacted by Congress in 1999 following a bruising and politically divisive independent counsel investigation that resulted in [impeachment proceedings against President Clinton]. The purpose was to ensure ultimate Justice Department oversight of sensitive investigations rather than vest them with an independent prosecutor who could operate unchecked and without supervision. Though the attorney general retains ultimate authority over a special counsel’s decisions, special counsels do have the latitude to bring whatever cases they see fit. They are funded by the Justice Department, can bring on their own prosecutors, are entitled to office space and are often expensive.” Keep reading for more news. Continue reading →
May a Judge Rule on a Motion to Suppress Evidence Seized Under a Search Warrant That He or She Issued?
Suppose a superior court judge issues a search warrant authorizing the search of a suspect’s house for drugs. Officers execute the warrant, find drugs, seize them, and charge the suspect with drug offenses. The charges end up in superior court, where the suspect – now the defendant – moves to suppress, arguing that the search warrant application lacked probable cause and that the judge who issued the warrant erred in doing so. Is it OK for the judge who issued the warrant to hear such a motion? Continue reading →
Happy new year! It’s time for the first news roundup of 2023, but I’ll start with one item that dates back to 2022. The Associated Press reports here that “Adnan Syed, who was released from a Maryland prison this year after his case was the focus of the true-crime podcast ‘Serial,’ has been hired by Georgetown University as a program associate for the university’s Prisons and Justice Initiative.” Apparently he will support a class in which “students reinvestigate decades-old wrongful convictions, create short documentaries about the cases and work to help bring innocent people home from prison.” I guess he might know something about that. Keep reading for more news. Continue reading →