For our last official criminal justice class, we heard from five more teams of students about their research projects. (At the students’ request, we also scheduled an extra evening session to watch the third best movie ever made about the law and lawyers—answer at the end of this post.) Once again, the students worked on a wide range of topics and, once again, I learned from the students. Here are some quick takeaways along with a brief discussion of one of the topics—double jeopardy, or more accurately, the absence of double jeopardy protections in the UK. Continue reading
Category Archives: Crimes and Elements
In a previous post I wrote about State v. McNeil, a case that resolved the question of how to count prior convictions for possession of drug paraphernalia, in light of that crime’s 2014 division into Class 1 (non-marijuana) and Class 3 (marijuana) offenses. Today’s post is about prior convictions for second-degree murder—split into Class B1 and Class B2 varieties in 2012—in light of State v. Arrington, a case recently decided by the supreme court. Continue reading →
Chances are you’ve heard of CBD products. Many cities around North Carolina have stores specializing in CBD products, and it’s widely available online and in ‘vape’ shops. It’s marketed for its health benefits and is touted as a safe and legal (if largely unregulated) treatment for a variety of conditions, from depression to inflammation to cancer and acne. I was recently asked to look at the law surrounding CBD products, and this post summarizes what I found. Continue reading →
I’ve been asked a few times about the meaning of purple bars painted on trees. At a recent class, someone showed me the relevant statute, which led me to learn a little more about it. This post lays out what I know. Continue reading →
In recent years North Carolina has made several reforms in the field of collateral consequences, expanding opportunities for expunctions of convictions, authorizing courts to issue certificates of relief to limit collateral consequences, and requiring that licensing agencies consider whether a nexus exists between applicants’ criminal conduct and their prospective duties, among other factors. See G.S. 93B-8.1. The changes are helpful but incremental. Our most recent criminal justice class challenged the extensive reliance on collateral consequences in the U.S., the effectiveness of current remedies, and ultimately barriers to reintegration into society of people who have previously been convicted of a crime. Continue reading →
Ordinarily, a pleading that fails to accurately allege every element of the offense is defective and is treated as a jurisdictional nullity. See, e.g., G.S. 15A-924(a)(5) (“as a prerequisite to its validity, an indictment must allege every essential element of the criminal offense it purports to charge”); State v. Harris, 219 N.C. App. 590 (2012) (indictment is invalid and confers no jurisdiction on the trial court if it “fails to state some essential and necessary element of the offense”).
The limited exception to this rule is the somewhat relaxed pleading standard for a citation, which may still be sufficient even if it fails to state every element, as long as it reasonably identifies the crime charged. Shea Denning and Jeff Welty covered that issue in a series of posts available here, here, and here.
Several recent cases from the Court of Appeals have offered a good reminder about another important corollary to the general rule for pleadings: although an indictment must “allege every element” in order to be valid, the state has quite a bit of flexibility in how that standard can be met.
In February 1843, Daniel M’Naughten was tried in London for the murder of Edward Drummond, the private secretary to Prime Minister Robert Peel. M’Naughten was laboring under the delusion that Prime Minister Peel was part of a system that was persecuting him. Only by shooting Peel could he end the torment. Drummond became the victim of these delusions when M’Naughten mistook him for Peel. The trial of M’Naughten, the verdict of insanity, and the aftermath made legal history. Continue reading →
Schools across the country experienced a “dramatic uptick” in threats of school-related violence following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February 2018. One set of researchers reported that in the thirty days after the Parkland shooting, threats and incidents of violence in schools nationally increased by more than 300 percent–from an average of 13.2 threats and incidents per day to 59.4 per day. The national trend played out in North Carolina as well, with schools in several North Carolina counties responding to several reported threats of violence in the weeks following the Parkland massacre. When such threats were made, it wasn’t always clear whether they amounted to a crime. The actions often were a poor fit for the two most obvious candidates: communicating threats (because the threat was not always communicated to the person threatened) and making a false report concerning mass violence on educational property (because it wasn’t always clear that the person who made the threat had made a report that the person knew to be false).
The General Assembly responded last June to this gap in the criminal code by enacting a new crime, communicating a threat of mass violence on educational property, effective for offenses committed on or after December 1, 2018.
Last year was a difficult one for North Carolina’s prison system. One correctional officer was killed by an inmate at Bertie Correctional Institution. Four staff members were killed during an attempted escape at Pasquotank. Today’s post summarizes some of the statutory and regulatory changes made in response to those incidents. Continue reading →
Back in February, I blogged about State v. Bridges, ___ N.C. App. ___, 810 S.E.2d 365 (Feb. 6, 2018), and drug identification. In short, Bridges held that the defendant’s out-of-court admission to an officer that a substance was “meth” was sufficient to meet the State’s burden of proving the identity of the substance, at least where the defendant failed to object to the testimony. This decision arguably signified an expansion of the Nabors exception to the Ward rule that a chemical analysis is generally required to establish drug identity (subject to other exceptions covered in the post). For a more thorough review of the topic, see that previous post. The Court of Appeals recently decided another drug ID case, State v. Osborne, ___ N.C. App. ___ (October 2, 2018), adding a new wrinkle to the rules. Continue reading →