Last week, the SOG offered a criminal law update featuring various members of the criminal law faculty. If you missed it and are interested viewing the recording, the webinar should be posted here within a few weeks. This post will be familiar to those who attended, as I covered the topic there. Consider watching the program—it is free to view for educational purposes, and a modest cost if you need the CLE credit. For those that prefer their criminal law updates from the blog, read on! Continue reading
Category Archives: Crimes and Elements
I was recently updating a list of review questions for a course on larceny offenses when I came across a version of this scenario: a woman tells her friend that she left one of her items behind in the store and asks the friend to go retrieve it for her, but in fact the woman never purchased it. If the friend goes back and gets it, what’s the crime and who gets charged?
The question usually prompts a good discussion about conventional charging options like conspiracy, acting in concert, aiding and abetting, or being an accessory. Phil Dixon wrote this helpful post summarizing the most common theories of principal liability and their pleading requirements, but none of those are a perfect fit for these facts. The woman wasn’t present at the scene and didn’t personally take the item, and the friend was unaware of what was happening so there was no common purpose or criminal intent on her part.
I think the best answer is the rarely mentioned “other” theory of principal liability we have in North Carolina: Acting Indirectly, also known as the Innocent Agent doctrine.
In North Carolina, victims of domestic violence are protected by both civil and criminal laws. Our state’s Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO) laws are in Chapter 50B of the General Statutes. A person seeking relief under Chapter 50B may file a civil action in district court alleging acts of domestic violence and seeking entry of a protective order. If the court enters a DVPO, a violation can have criminal consequences. This post reviews the criminal offenses involving violations of DVPOs.
One of the last public events I attended before the pandemic upended life as we knew it were oral arguments before the United States Supreme Court. The week I was there turned out to be the last week of in-person oral arguments before arguments first were postponed and later resumed by teleconference. The Supreme Court took the long view of this interruption, noting that it was not unprecedented as the court had postponed arguments in October 1918 because of the Spanish flu epidemic and in 1793 and 1798 because of yellow fever outbreaks. Notwithstanding the change in procedures, the work of the high court — like the work of our state courts — continues. That work includes review in several criminal cases during its 2020 term.
Listed below are the principal criminal law cases currently before the Court, with a link to the docket entry for each case, followed by the Questions Presented. If telephonic oral argument has been held, the entry includes a link to the transcript of that argument.
In a previous blog post, I wrote about an inquiry we received at the School of Government about North Carolina General Statute Section 14-51, reproduced below. In that post, I addressed how to find the elements (what must be proven) of burglary. In this post, I will talk about how to find the legislative history of this, and any, statute.
As I write this post, news headlines continue to be dominated by coverage of the violence that occurred at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. Dozens of people have been charged with crimes so far, and many others are being actively investigated for offenses including curfew violations, property crimes, assault, and possessing unlawful weapons or explosives. Perhaps the most striking allegation, and the one which will serve as the basis for a new article of impeachment against the president, is “insurrection.”
The criminal courts, or Congress in the case of impeachment, will decide whether the defendants are guilty of those offenses. But it made me wonder, particularly in light of new warnings about similar events occurring at state capitols in the days ahead, what does our law say about insurrection in North Carolina?
Imagine a case of domestic violence in which the perpetrator physically and violently assaults a victim. The perpetrator punches the victim with his fist, grabs the victim by the throat and strangles her, and grabs the nearest object and hits her over the head. The victim suffers a broken jaw, black eye, and a concussion and sustains bruising to the neck.
Assuming each of these acts occurred within a short and continuous time frame, could the perpetrator be charged with multiple counts of assault or only one? Continue reading →
In keeping with my recent work in the Chapter 90 realm, here is another issue, presented in pop quiz form. Without peeking at the statutes:
I have been getting several questions lately about the crime of assault by strangulation, a Class H felony under G.S. 14-32.4(b). This crime can be tricky because two of its four elements are not statutorily defined. This post explains those elements in more detail.
Some of my recent posts have addressed weapon offenses at demonstrations and other public events, and I also wrote recently about the issue of dicta in a court opinion being treated as binding precedent. Those two topics converged in an interesting way during a training seminar yesterday for magistrates.
We were discussing one of the most well-known offenses in this area, Going Armed to Terror of the People, when this question came up: is it really limited to offenses that occur “on a public highway,” or can it apply in other public places like parks, bus stations, and government buildings? If not, why not? Especially since other breach of the peace offenses like affray or disorderly conduct apply more broadly to any “public place?”
Charging practices seem to differ on this point around the state, and there is some room for debate depending on how far back we go in the case law, so I thought it warranted a closer look.