I recently taught on the basics of drug law in North Carolina and was reminded just what a tricky area it can be. Chapter 90 of the N.C. General Statutes is a dense, complex, and ever-evolving set of laws proscribing controlled substances. There are many substances, offenses, enhancements, and sentencing rules to know, as well as evidence issues and offense-specific case law. One thorny area involves the law of drug mixtures. While practitioners handling felony drug cases may be aware of the rules here, they may come as a surprise to others. Some applications of the law in this area can produce unexpected results for the unwary defendant. Today’s post examines the rules of drug mixtures and their implications in North Carolina. Continue reading
Category Archives: Crimes and Elements
In May of this year I wrote a blog post about protesters and demonstrators carrying firearms at their events. In the months since that post, a variation of that conduct has begun happening more frequently: armed militias showing up at other groups’ events, either as supporters or as opponents. The recent events in Kenosha have brought renewed media attention to this issue, but incidents involving armed militias have occurred all across the country this summer (see a few examples here, here, here, and here).
Lately I’ve been asked if these types of private militias are legal in North Carolina, and if so, whether they are permitted to “deploy” to protests as participants or security? This post provides a summary of the relevant statutes and the criminal offenses that may apply.
For the most part, if a defendant is convicted of a crime included in the list of reportable offenses, the defendant must register. But some crimes require registration only if the judge orders it. Today’s post summarizes what we know about the process for making that decision. Continue reading →
This post summarizes published criminal opinions of the Court of Appeals decided on July 7, 2020. Continue reading →
On Thursday, June 4, 2020, the North Carolina General Assembly passed S.B. 315, referred to as the State Farm Bill, which was subsequently signed into law by the Governor. The bill was pending all last session and stalled, allegedly over a dispute about how to treat smokable hemp. As I understand it, the bill originally intended to clarify that hemp in all forms (including smokable hemp) was legal (here is an earlier version of the bill taking that approach). After hearing objections from law enforcement and prosecutors (as detailed in the SBI memo on the subject), the proposed bill was changed to ban smokable hemp and regulate the rest of the hemp industry in a variety of ways. When the bill was last being discussed in the news, the dispute at the General Assembly had apparently narrowed to when the smokable hemp ban was to kick in. But, the bill never passed last session, and we were without a Farm Bill until this month. So, what big changes does the bill have in store for hemp in North Carolina? Continue reading →
Under the felony murder rule, a death that occurs as the proximate result of the commission or attempted commission of another qualifying crime (robbery, kidnapping, felony involving use of a deadly weapon, and others) constitutes first-degree murder, even in the absence of premeditation and deliberation. See G.S. 14-17(a). Shea Denning wrote a great summary of the basic law on felony murder here, and she tackled the confusing merger doctrine here.
But one topic we haven’t yet covered on this blog is the issue of agency. Under North Carolina’s felony murder law, a defendant can only be held responsible for a death that was caused by himself or an accomplice to the crime, not by an adversary such as a police officer who shoots back. Recently, I was confronted with a couple interesting questions about this rule.
First, why is that the rule, and does it have to be?
Second, how does it apply to situations such as when an innocent bystander is killed by a stray bullet that could have come from either an accomplice or an adversary?
We previously reported on North Carolina state and county-level criminal charging data. In our earlier report (here) we provided data on charges, charged defendants and charged cases for felonies and misdemeanors, and broke misdemeanors down into non-traffic and traffic offenses. In this report, we present more detailed information about the nature of the felony and misdemeanor charges brought in North Carolina in 2019. For felony offenses, we provide data at the state and county level on, among other things, the number of non-violent and violent felony charges, and separate out drug charges. At the misdemeanor level, we parse the data into still more categories, including breakdowns for, among other things, DWI and related charges, non-DWI traffic charges, ordinance violations, and non-violent and violent misdemeanor charges. There is a lot to unpack in our new spreadsheet. In this report, we present some of the top line results. A spreadsheet with the data is available here. Continue reading →
Over the past couple weeks, North Carolina has joined the growing list of states in which armed demonstrators have gathered to express their opposition to virus-related restrictions on economic activity and social gatherings, or to more generally express their opposition to any restrictions on their Second Amendment rights. Dressed in patriotic or military-style gear, and armed with a variety of openly displayed handguns, rifles, or even an (inert) AT-4 anti-tank weapon, these groups have processed along city streets and sidewalks or gathered in public locations like a historic cemetery and a downtown restaurant.
Now, particularly in light of an incident over the weekend where two local attorneys walking with their children felt threatened by a demonstrator wielding a large pipe wrench, a lot of people are asking the same question: are these armed demonstrations legal?
The question seems simple. The answer is more complicated.
We’re pleased to announce that the 2019 Cumulative Supplement to North Carolina Crimes: A Guidebook on the Elements of Crime is now available for purchase. The book includes cases and legislation through December 31, 2019. Continue reading →