The Fourth Circuit decided a case recently involving members of MS-13. The case involves an interesting Confrontation Clause issue regarding the use of gang experts, which I’ll mention at the end of this post, but I thought that the description of the gang itself was compelling enough to warrant a post: La Mara Salvatrucha, otherwise … Read more


Photographs of Homicide Victims

The State’s effort to introduce photographs of a homicide victim into evidence often is met with defense objections. One objection sometimes asserted is that the photographs are inadmissible as substantive evidence and must be limited to illustrative purposes. This objection likely will be overruled. As a general rule, photographs may be offered as substantive evidence … Read more


Proving Knowledge of a License Revocation

Driving while license revoked (DWLR), a Class 1 misdemeanor, is one of the most frequently charged criminal offenses in North Carolina.  And, while certain elements of the offense are spelled out in G.S. 20-28 and are relatively straightforward—namely that the person (1) operated a motor vehicle, (2) on a highway, (3) while the person’s license … Read more


Rule 403: Old Chief and Stipulations to Prior Convictions

Some crimes, such as felon in possession of a firearm, include as an element that the defendant has a qualifying prior conviction. When this is the case, the defense may seek to limit the prejudicial effect of the prior conviction by offering to stipulate to its existence and asking the trial judge to preclude the … Read more


Relevancy: Weapons

Recently, I’ve been posting about relevancy issues that arise with some frequency in North Carolina criminal cases. A final topic in that vein is the relevancy of evidence pertaining to weapons allegedly used in the crime. Suppose for example that the State seeks to introduce evidence of a knife allegedly used in an assault. The … Read more


Relevancy: “Context,” “Circumstances,” and “Chain of Events” Evidence

In an earlier post, I wrote about relevancy and guilt of another. In this post, I consider another relevancy issue: context, circumstances, and chain of events evidence. Consider this problem: At the defendant’s murder trial, the State seeks to admit evidence that the defendant was doing drugs before the murder. To keep the facts clean, … Read more


.08 at Any Relevant Time after the Driving

Every state and the District of Columbia prohibits driving with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more though state laws vary regarding whether to establish a violation of the per se impaired driving law an alcohol concentration of .08 or more must exist at the time of driving (see, for example, Ala Code § 32-5A-191; … Read more


Relevancy: Guilt of Another

Editor’s note: Jessie has prepared a series of posts about the law of relevancy. They’ll run as an intermittent series over the next several weeks. In this and upcoming posts, I will explore several relevancy issues that arise with some frequency. Perhaps the most litigated relevancy issue in North Carolina criminal cases is the admissibility … Read more


The Need for (Evidence of) Speed

A civil case decided by the court of appeals last week, Blackwell v. Hatley, addresses when a witness may testify as to his or her opinion of how fast a vehicle was traveling.  In Blackwell, the court held that an accident report prepared by a town police officer estimating the defendant’s speed at the time … Read more

Victims’ Statements about Defendants’ Prior Violent Acts

The court of appeals just decided State v. Hernandez, which raises an important and recurrent hearsay issue. Briefly, the facts of Hernandez are as follows: the defendant traveled with his girlfriend, the victim, to her mother’s home. The defendant exhibited jealous behavior towards his girlfriend. His girlfriend told her mother that the defendant was “wanted … Read more