After years of litigation concerning the constitutionality of satellite-based monitoring (SBM) of sex offenders, the General Assembly has amended the law pretty dramatically. Today’s post describes those changes. Continue reading →
The case is ready for trial and all parties are present. From the bench, the judge makes a final attempt to resolve the case by saying “if we need to do a trial that’s fine, and I can call for a jury right now — but I’m just letting you all know that if the defendant was willing to plead to count 1 and state was willing to dismiss count 2, I’d be inclined to give supervised probation and we could get this case wrapped up today.”
Of course every county and every judge is unique, but most criminal attorneys have at least occasionally experienced some type of participation from the bench in working out a plea. So we know that it happens, but is it actually authorized by our statutes? Should it be? If it is, what are the limits, and what’s fair game for negotiation? Are the judge’s terms binding?
In Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), the Supreme Court held that a person who commits a homicide when he or she is under 18 may not be mandatorily sentenced to life without parole; the sentencing judge must have discretion to impose a lesser punishment. In Montgomery v. Louisiana, 577 U.S. 190 (2016), the Court held that Miller applies retroactively. When Montgomery was decided, I wondered (here) whether it did more than merely address Miller’s retroactive application. Language in the case indicated that a sentence of life without parole would be constitutionally permissible for only the most the most troubling young defendants—“those whose crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility.” Id. at 209. In Jones v. Mississippi, 593 U.S. ___ (2021), decided last week, the Court made clear that the Constitution does not require a sentencer to make a separate factual finding of permanent incorrigibility before sentencing a defendant to life without parole. Continue reading →
My colleague Jamie Markham and I have received quite a few questions lately about jail credit for consolidated sentences. Jamie has written several blog posts over the years explaining the various jail credit laws. However, there are no statutes or case law that govern the peculiar scenarios that come up regarding consolidated sentences. Continue reading →
While the suspension of jury trials caused by the pandemic has slowed the work of the criminal courts, judges across the state continue to sentence defendants who enter guilty pleas. The prospect of their clients facing prison time during the pandemic has spurred defense attorneys to consider what arguments might be made during sentencing proceedings with respect to the heightened danger of a defendant contracting COVID-19 in a correctional facility.
The Administrative Office of the Courts has issued a new form, AOC-CR-415, through which a person can make a motion for relief from costs, fines, and other monetary obligations. The form also doubles as the order through which a judge can rule on the motion. Continue reading →
Suppose a defendant is being held on two charges, Charge A from County A and Charge B from County B. He was arrested for both at the same time and has been held on both for the same number of days. For whatever reason, Charge A is handled first (perhaps because County A has managed to resume pandemic court operations more quickly than County B), and let’s say it results in a sentence to time served. If Charge B ultimately results in a conviction, can the defendant receive jail credit for the days of pretrial confinement that were already applied to Charge A? Continue reading →
For the most part, if a defendant is convicted of a crime included in the list of reportable offenses, the defendant must register. But some crimes require registration only if the judge orders it. Today’s post summarizes what we know about the process for making that decision. Continue reading →
In an earlier bulletin, I discussed the possibility that state habeas petitions could emerge as a remedy for medically vulnerable prisoners in North Carolina, as they have in other states (most notably New York). While it remains too early to tell how North Carolina courts will respond, there have been some important developments in recent weeks, as a number of prisoners have asked courts to consider their petitions. This post explores the status of two of those cases and related legal issues regarding the viability of state habeas as a remedy for prisoners uniquely endangered by COVID-19. Continue reading →