Probation violations need not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. All that’s required is sufficient evidence to “reasonably satisfy” the judge that a violation occurred. What constitutes competent evidence of a probation violation? And how much proof is enough? Continue reading
Category Archives: Evidence
The court of appeals reversed a defendant’s DWI conviction yesterday in State v. Ashworth, __ N.C. App. __ (August 2, 2016), on the basis that the trial court plainly erred in holding that the driver’s license checkpoint at which the defendant was stopped was appropriately tailored and advanced the public interest. Unlike some checkpoint cases in which you can see the trouble coming in the recitation of facts, Ashworth is a pretty routine checkpoint case. Two officers with the State Highway Patrol set up the checkpoint to look for driver’s license and other traffic violations. The highway patrol had a checkpoint policy that the officers followed. A supervisor approved the checkpoint. The defendant admitted that he had been drinking almost immediately after he stopped at the checkpoint. So where did the trial court go wrong?
(Author’s note: The concluding paragraph of this post was amended after its publication to include the number of outstanding warrants and orders for arrest on July 1, 2016.)
Every year, the June trifecta throws me off my game. First, school lets out so I have to acclimate to a schedule of camps that vary in operating hours, locations, necessary equipment, and participating child. Second, the district court judges convene for their annual conference where I join them to oversee the program and to lecture about criminal law cases decided since the previous October. Third, the United States Supreme Court winds up its term, invariably deciding significant criminal law cases the very week of the conference. Since judges are no better than my children in cutting me a little slack (Am I really the only mother who didn’t know you needed to bring a racket to tennis camp?), they bombarded me the day the conference began to ask about the attenuation doctrine and its application in Utah v. Strieff (decided the day before). I mumbled something about the Christian burial speech and quickly asked how their summers were going. Now that June is behind me, I’ve collected my thoughts and am prepared to talk about Strieff.
Technologists tell us that we are in the age of ubiquitous video. It seems that almost everything is being recorded. Naturally, this means that more and more video recordings are being introduced in court. A recent decision by the court of appeals is a helpful reminder of the two primary methods of authenticating video. Continue reading →
No legislative session would be complete without amendments to the state’s DWI laws. The 2016 short session upholds this tradition by amending the procedures that govern the admissibility of chemical analyses in impaired driving trials in district and superior court. Continue reading →
The North Carolina Supreme Court held in State v. McGrady, __ N.C.___ (June 10, 2016), that Rule 702(a) of the North Carolina Rules of Evidence incorporates the standard set forth in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993). That’s what the court of appeals had already said, so it isn’t a big surprise. In McGrady, the application of Daubert led the state supreme court to conclude that the trial court did not err in excluding testimony from an expert in law enforcement training about the defendant’s conscious and unconscious responses to a perceived threat from the victim. McGrady’s analysis opens the door for reconsidering the admissibility of many types of expert testimony previously admitted as a matter of course, including expert testimony from law enforcement experts involving scientific and medical principles. Continue reading →
Author’s note: I added the conclusory paragraph at the end of this post shortly after its initial publication in response to helpful questions from readers about the significance of State v. Godwin and State v. Torrence.
Like Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, horizontal gaze nystagmus is a mouthful. Unlike Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, not just anyone can utter horizontal gaze nystagmus and sound wise beyond her years. Two recent court of appeals opinions hold that that a witness be qualified as an expert before testifying about the results of a horizontal gaze nystagmus test.
The Supreme Court of North Carolina just decided State v. Snead, a case about the authentication of surveillance video. The court adopted a more relaxed approach to authentication than the court of appeals had taken. Because the authentication of video is an increasingly common issue, it is worth digging into the case. Continue reading →
In its seminal opinion establishing the State’s right to withdraw blood from a DWI suspect over his objection and without a warrant when there are exigent circumstances, the United States Supreme Court left a significant question unanswered. The court in Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 747 (1966), noted that the petitioner “is not one of the few who on grounds of fear, concern for health, or religious scruple might prefer some other means of testing, such as the ‘Breathalyzer’ test petitioner refused. . . . We need not decide whether such wishes would have to be respected.” Id. at 771.
So how have courts in the ensuing four decades answered this question? Must an impaired driving suspect be offered the least intrusive type of chemical test available or a choice about the type of testing when he or she has a sincere objection to a particular test?
The court of appeals recently decided State v. Ford, a case about the authentication of social media evidence. This is the first North Carolina appellate case to give careful consideration to the issue, and the opinion sets a relatively low bar for authentication. Because this type of evidence is increasingly prevalent, the case is an important one. Continue reading →