Last week, the FBI searched former President Trump’s home at the Mar-a-Lago Club pursuant to a search warrant. At first none of the relevant documents were publicly available. The application, the warrant itself, and the inventory were all sealed. The Government, with the consent of former President Trump, later moved to unseal the warrant and the inventory. That motion was granted and anyone can access the now-public documents here. The application remains under seal, though members of the news media have moved to unseal it. Because several people asked me about public access to federal search warrants and related documents, and because the process isn’t exactly the same as it is under state law, I thought I’d do a post comparing state and federal law on this issue. Continue reading
Category Archives: Procedure
Public Access to the Mar-a-Lago Search Warrant (and Other Federal Search Warrants and Related Documents)
Lately I have received a number of questions relating to whether it is appropriate to return guns following a temporary firearms disqualification. The issue seems to arise most commonly when a domestic violence restraining order (“DVPO”) is issued under Chapter 50B of the North Carolina General Statutes, which requires the surrender of guns by a defendant in certain circumstances and allows the defendant to seek return of the guns following the expiration of the order and final disposition of any related criminal charges. See G.S. 50B-3.1.
The issue of returning guns could pop up in other circumstances involving the seizure or surrender of guns. An interplay of state and federal law determines whether a person is disqualified from possessing firearms, temporarily or permanently, and some of the wrinkles are counterintuitive. This post examines some of the most common grounds for disqualification and discusses some limits of state authority in this area. It’s long, but I hope readers find it useful. Continue reading →
The North Carolina General Assembly recently passed S.L. 2022-30 (S 766) which increases the penalties for organized retail theft, provides additional penalties for damage to property or assault of a person during the commission of organized retail theft, and clarifies the procedure for the return of seized property to the lawful owner. The new criminal provisions go into effect on December 1, 2022 and apply to offenses committed on or after that date. Continue reading →
Diverse teams of justice system stakeholders in New Hanover, Orange, and Robeson counties participated in the North Carolina Court Appearance Project, seeking to improve local court appearance rates and develop better responses to nonappearances. The teams examined local court and jail data, reflected on court practices and procedures, and crafted policy solutions suited to the needs of their communities and courtrooms. We recently released a report describing the project teams’ initial efforts. This post summarizes key takeaways from that report.
The Supreme Court of the United States decided a malicious prosecution case earlier this month. The case is Thompson v. Clark, 596 U.S. __ (2022), and it has been the subject of some overheated media reports. For example, one outlet claimed that before Thompson, “[p]olice officers could frame people, file bogus charges, [and] conjure evidence out of thin air” yet “still be immune from facing any sort of civil accountability.” Billy Bunion, The Supreme Court Says You Can Sue Cops Who Frame You on False Charges (April 5, 2022). That’s not right, but Thompson is still an important opinion. This post will lay out the basics of malicious prosecution, explain what the Court did in Thompson, and offer some thoughts about the significance of the new ruling. Continue reading →
The North Carolina Judicial College has created a video for jurors explaining the effects of bias on decision-making and suggesting how jurors may minimize the role of bias in their consideration of evidence presented at trial. The video was inspired by a juror orientation video on this topic produced by the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, which has been shown to jurors as part of juror orientation in several criminal superior court cases in North Carolina.
The Judicial College video is shorter than the Washington video and features voices from some North Carolinians you may recognize. A party who wishes to have the video displayed during juror orientation may file a motion with the court requesting that be done. Senior resident superior court judges might also adopt an administrative order directing that the video be shown. Both approaches have previously been used by North Carolina judges to order the display of the Washington video.
If you have feedback about the video or questions about how to access its content, please feel free to email me directly at email@example.com.
One of the first examples in the video of bias is that a basketball fan might not be the right juror for a case involve the coach of his or her favorite basketball team or one of the players on the team. That example resonates particularly well for me today, the day of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.
So I’ll sign off by acknowledging my basketball bias: Go Heels!
The North Carolina General Assembly revisited the authority of magistrates to conduct first appearances in Session Law 2022-6 (H243). The General Assembly ratified the law on 3/11/2022, and the Governor signed the legislation on 3/17/2022. The fifty-two page act is fairly typical session wrap up legislation. It makes numerous changes across statutes addressing many different legal topics. Part VIII of the law makes changes in the courts area.
In North Carolina, a district court judge normally conducts first appearance for criminal defendants. The clerk of court conducts first appearance only when a district court judge is not available during the designated time periods.
The General Assembly amended G.S. 15A-601 to change the law of first appearance twice in late 2021. Among changes in the General Assembly’s first revision was an amendment that would permit a magistrate to conduct first appearance if the clerk is not available. In subsequent legislation, the General Assembly removed that authorization for magistrates before it became effective.
See this blog post for details about previous changes to first appearance during this legislative session.
With Section 8.4 of Session Law 2022-6 (H243) the General Assembly has again amended G.S. 15A-601(e) to permit a magistrate to conduct first appearance if the clerk is not available.
The General Assembly made Session Law 2022-6 (H243) effective retroactively to July 1, 2021. Application of that date to this session’s first appearance changes is complicated. Previous amendments to G.S. 15A-601–to which this amendment applies–were effective for criminal processes served on or after December 1, 2021. Practically, it’s difficult to see how the new July 1, 2021 effective date has much impact. My view is that the amendment is effective immediately, but we’ll see if the Revisor of Statutes has something different to say in the final codification of this statute.
You can find previous posts about first appearance by searching this site.
This post summarizes an unusual point of law that recently caught me by surprise, and it’s one which I don’t believe we’ve ever directly covered on the criminal law blog before: the impact of bankruptcy on criminal charges.
After reading that introduction, I know some of you may be tempted to skip this one, but bear with me — whether you’re prosecuting or defending, and whether it’s a complex felony embezzlement case or a simple misdemeanor failure to return rental property, this could potentially be a pretty big deal. (Alternatively, if that’s not enough to hook you, please click through anyway to see a personal announcement at the end of this post.)
A new Juvenile Law Bulletin, Transfer of Juvenile Delinquency Cases to Superior Court, is now available. Transfer is the procedure used to move a case that begins as a delinquency matter under the original jurisdiction of the juvenile court to criminal court for trial as an adult. The Bulletin outlines when transfer is allowed, and sometimes required; the varying procedures to use to transfer a case based on age at offense and the offense charged; procedure to follow once transfer is ordered; the remand process; place of confinement; and issues related to the appeal process. This blog provides some highlights of the information in the Bulletin. Continue reading →
By now, most readers of this blog have probably seen the news stories about a school shooting that occurred in Michigan a couple weeks ago, and are aware of the prosecutor’s decision to charge the alleged shooter’s parents with involuntary manslaughter. If not, we covered it for you in the News Roundup (twice). Those articles contain extensive details about the facts of the case, the reasoning behind the charges against the parents, and the evidence that the state believes will support the charges. We now know about a meeting earlier the same day between the parents and school administrators, disturbing artwork found in a school desk, online searches for ammunition, texts and social media posts about the firearm, and much more.
The novelty of pursuing criminal charges against the parents of the alleged shooter has drawn most of the national attention, but it prompted me to think about another interesting issue that comes up fairly often in high-profile criminal cases: how much should the prosecutor be telling us about this pending case?