Presented with an appalling set of facts, the North Carolina Supreme Court unanimously upheld the defendant’s convictions for murder, kidnapping, sex offense, and felony child abuse. The majority affirmed a sentence of death. Justice Berger’s concurring opinion, addressing only a Miranda issue, was joined by four other justices, making it “the supplemental opinion of the Court.” Justice Earls dissented with regard to capital punishment, concluding the defendant was entitled to a new sentencing hearing. This post summarizes the 225-page opinion in Richardson.
Four years after a plurality of the United States Supreme Court in Mitchell v. Wisconsin, 588 U.S. ___, 139 S. Ct. 2525 (2019), announced a State-favorable exigency rule for withdrawing blood from a suspected impaired driver who is unconscious, the North Carolina Court of Appeals in State v. Burris, COA22-408, ___ N.C. App. ___ (July 5, 2023), has applied the rule for the first time. This post will review the holding in Mitchell and the Court of Appeals’ analysis in Burris and will conclude with a summary of the Fourth Amendment limitations on implied consent testing.
Editor’s note: We are pleased to welcome M. Jeanette Pitts to the blog as an author. Jeanette is a Legal Research Specialist at the Criminal Justice Innovation Lab.
According to a report by the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles, there were over 250,000 traffic crashes in 2021 (276,026, to be exact). Even when crashes involving fatalities and injuries are removed from that figure, the number of crashes involving only property damage still hovers at 200,000. A glance at past year figures and the five-year average reveals that the number of crashes involving only property damage has been over 175,000 for several years.
A decade ago, I wrote a post about the circumstances under which police may stop a person who is carrying a gun openly. A lot has changed since then. The Supreme Court has strengthened the Second Amendment in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, 597 U.S. __ (2022). The General Assembly has eliminated the requirement that North Carolina residents obtain a permit before buying a handgun. See S.L. 2023-8. And empirical scholarship suggests that many more Americans are carrying guns on a daily basis. See Ali Awhani-Robar et al., Trend in Loaded Handgun Carrying Among Adult Handgun Owners in the United States, 2015-2019, Am. J. Pub. Health (2022) (finding that in 2019, “approximately 6 million [gun owners carried] daily,” which was “twice the 3 million who did so in 2015”). So it is a good time to revisit the question.
Last week, in Part I of this series, I discussed whether having a drug dog sniff a vehicle is a search if the drug dog might alert upon smelling hemp, a substance that is legal to possess. Today’s post focuses on what may be an even more significant question: if a dog alerts, does the alert provide probable cause to search?
Hemp and hemp products are now legal under state and federal law. Hemp is the same plant as marijuana and contains the same chemical compounds, though in different concentrations. Could a drug dog trained to detect marijuana alert on legal hemp? If so, does that impact whether a dog sniff is a search under the Fourth Amendment? And does it mean that a drug dog’s alert no longer provides probable cause to search a vehicle? This two-part series tackles those questions.
Suppose that Victor Victim was the victim of a non-fatal shooting. Law enforcement has charged Dan Defendant with the crime, but Victor is not enthusiastic about testifying against Dan and has not cooperated with the police and the prosecutor in the run-up to the trial. The State has issued a subpoena to compel Victor’s attendance. Olga Officer is out looking for Victor when she sees him driving by. May Olga stop Victor’s car in order to serve him with the subpoena?
In response to the opioid crisis, North Carolina passed several protections designed to alleviate some of the legal liability surrounding drug use in the interest of harm reduction and public health. One of those protections authorized needle exchange programs (alternatively known as safe syringes programs). G.S. 90-113.27. A recent study examined how the needle exchange program is working in seven North Carolina counties and found that the law was not consistently applied. Brandon Morrison et al., “They Don’t Go by the Law Around Here”: Law Enforcement Interactions After the Legalization of Syringe Services Programs in North Carolina, vol. 19, Harm Reduction Journal, 106 (Sept. 27, 2022). Considering the study’s findings, I thought a refresher on the immunity provisions for syringe exchanges and similar protections would be timely. Read on for the details.
I recently finished a paper on the law and practice of no-knock warrants in North Carolina. I went with the creative title, The Law and Practice of No-Knock Search Warrants in North Carolina. You can access the paper here. To give you a sense of the contents, here’s a paragraph from the introduction that notes some … Read more
The North Carolina Court of Appeals in State v. Eagle, 2022-NCCOA-680, ___ N.C. App. ___, 879 S.E.2d 377 (2022), considered whether the driver of a car that had already stopped when a patrol officer pulled in behind it with blue lights activated was seized within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. The trial court had ruled that the driver was not immediately seized by the officer in this encounter. Instead, the court ruled that a seizure occurred only when the officer took Ms. Eagle’s driver’s license and returned to her patrol car. By this point, the officer had developed reasonable suspicion to believe Ms. Eagle was impaired. The Court of Appeals reversed, determining that Eagle was seized at the outset of this encounter. This post discusses State v. Eagle and its relationship to other recent seizure jurisprudence.