In August, the North Carolina Supreme Court weighed in on drug identification once again in State v. Osborne, ___ N.C. ___ (August 16, 2019). I wrote about the earlier Court of Appeals decision in the case, here. The new Osborne decision clarifies the application of drug identification rules as well as sufficiency of the evidence in this context. Continue reading
Category Archives: Crimes and Elements
Back in May, a divided Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling that the defendant was not entitled to a jury instruction on entrapment in an online solicitation of a minor case. Entrapment isn’t exactly a common defense (as Jeff noted here). When it comes up, it’s often in drug cases, but it can also arise in computer solicitation cases where law enforcement officers pretend to be underage. State v. Keller, ___ N.C. App. ___, 828 S.E.2d 578 (May 21, 2019), review allowed, ___ N.C. ___ (August 14, 2019), is an example of such a case and appears to be the second reported decision dealing directly with the defense in this context, so I wanted to flag it for readers. Fair warning, this post recounts some of the sexually graphic discussions at issue in the case. Continue reading →
An elementary school student writes “BOMB INCOMING” on the wall of the boys’ bathroom at school. The student does not, in fact, know of any plans to bomb the school and has made no such plans himself. Has the student committed a crime or an act of juvenile delinquency? If so what crime or crimes has he committed?
Populate the poll below with your answer or answers and keep reading for mine.
Editor’s note: The opinion analyzed in this post was withdrawn shortly after publication and replaced with this opinion reaching the same outcome.
Last week, in State v. Ellis, __ N.C. App. __, __ S.E.2d __, 2019 WL 3559644 (N.C. Ct. App. Aug. 6, 2019), a divided panel of the court of appeals held that a trooper properly stopped a vehicle “after witnessing . . . a passenger in [the] vehicle . . . extend his middle finger in the trooper’s general direction.” The majority acknowledged that “there are a number of decisions from courts across the country [holding] that one cannot be held criminally liable for simply raising his middle finger at an officer.” Yet it ruled that the defendant’s conduct provided reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, namely, disorderly conduct. See generally G.S. 14-288.4(a)(2) (making it unlawful to make a gesture “intended and plainly likely to provoke violent retaliation”). Let’s take a closer look at Ellis. Continue reading →
The common law right to use defensive force in North Carolina rests on three fundamental principles: necessity, proportionality, and fault. Ordinarily, when a person uses defensive force, the force must be reasonably necessary to prevent harm; the force must be proportional to the threatened harm; and the person using defensive force must not be at fault in the conflict. See John Rubin, The Law of Self-Defense § 2.1(b), at 14–15 (UNC School of Government, 1996). North Carolina’s new statutes on defensive force continue to rely on these principles. As under the common law, the statutes do not always refer to these principles in describing the circumstances in which a person may use defensive force. But, as this post is intended to show, the basic principles of necessity, proportionality, and fault remain central to the statutory rights. Continue reading →
Effective immediately, there is a new exception to G.S. 90-113.22 (possession of drug paraphernalia) and G.S. 90-113.22A (possession of marijuana paraphernalia). Pursuant to S.L. 2019-159, it is “not unlawful” for a drug user to possess or use “testing equipment for identifying or analyzing the strength, effectiveness, or purity” of drugs, or for an “organization that promotes scientifically proven ways of mitigating health risks associated with drug use” to possess or distribute such equipment. Read on to find out what’s behind the change. Continue reading →
Back in 2017, I wrote about murder charges premised on the unlawful distribution of drugs and what the State must prove to establish a defendant’s guilt. One element the State must prove is malice.
This legislative session the General Assembly created two new crimes penalizing the distribution of certain drugs resulting in a person’s death: death by distribution and aggravated death by distribution. S.L. 2019-83 (H 474). A distinguishing feature of the new crimes is that they require no proof of malice. Continue reading →
In State v. Harvey, ___ N.C. ___, ___ S.E.2d ___ (June 14, 2019), a five to one majority of the North Carolina Supreme Court affirmed the unpublished decision of a divided panel of the Court of Appeals, ___ N.C. App. ___, 817 S.E.2d 500 (2018), holding that the trial judge properly refused to instruct the jury on perfect and imperfect self-defense in a homicide case. In so ruling, the majority in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals relied on the “belief” doctrine created by our courts over the last 25 years. The opinions, four in all, show that our courts are continuing to wrestle with the implications of that doctrine. Continue reading →
Suppose the State is prosecuting a defendant for the sexual assault of a young child. Though the child has been identified by name in the arrest warrant and investigative reports provided to the defendant, the State would prefer not to name the victim in the indictment. May it refer to the victim in that document as “Victim #1”?
Several years ago (some might say that’s an understatement) I wrote The Law of Self-Defense in North Carolina, in which I looked at over 200 years’ worth of North Carolina court opinions on self-defense and related defenses, such as defense of others and defense of habitation. The book’s approach reflected that North Carolina was a common law state when it came to self-defense. The right to act in self-defense depended primarily on the authority of court decisions. The General Assembly’s adoption in 2011 of three defensive force statutes—G.S. 14-51.2, G.S. 14-51.3, and G.S. 14-51.4—changed that. An understanding of the law of self-defense in North Carolina now must begin with the statutory law of self-defense. Continue reading →