I wrote last week about the different state and federal approaches to sealing search warrants and related documents. It was a timely topic in light of the search warrant the FBI obtained for former President Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago. That search warrant and the inventory of items seized from former President Trump’s home have already been unsealed, but the affidavit supporting the issuance of the warrant has not. This week, the magistrate judge who issued the warrant heard arguments about whether the affidavit should be made public as well. ABC11 reports here that the judge plans to release at least a redacted version of the affidavit. The Department of Justice argued that the affidavit provides a road map to its investigation. It has a week to submit proposed redactions to the court. Keep reading for more news. Continue reading
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This post summarizes the published criminal opinions from the North Carolina Court of Appeals released on August 16, 2022. This summary will be added to Smith’s Criminal Case Compendium, a free and searchable database of case summaries from 2008 to the present.
Under G.S. 15A-1347(b), if a defendant waives a probation revocation hearing in district court, he or she may not appeal the revocation or imposition of a split sentence to superior court for a de novo violation hearing. That law was enacted in 2013 as part of legislation designed to streamline the superior court caseload, focusing it on contested cases and those implicating a defendant’s right to a jury trial. S.L. 2013-385. I wrote a post about that law in 2014, here, wondering about some of the then-new law’s wrinkles. The Court of Appeals considered its first case under G.S. 15A-1347(b) last year in State v. Flanagan, 2021-NCCOA-456, 279 N.C. App. 228 (2021). Continue reading →
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 →
I’m pleased to announce that a new project, the North Carolina Criminal Debrief Podcast, is up and running. As you might guess, the podcast focuses on criminal law issues affecting the state. The idea is to provide another platform for folks to stay abreast of developments in the field in a way that is accessible to both court system actors and the public at large. You can tune into the podcast on the SOG website at the link above or on Spotify, Stitcher, or Apple. If you like what you hear, please like, subscribe, and pass it along!
Three episodes are currently available, and I expect to release new ones each month or so. The episodes have focused on case and legislative updates so far, but I plan to have interviews with guests and focused episodes digging into specific topics. The most recent episode covers the last-minute legislative changes passed this summer to preserve the state hemp industry, recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the recent decisions by the North Carolina Supreme Court on de facto life sentences for juvenile offenders. It is around 30 minutes, which is half as long as the first couple of episodes. It’s still an evolving project and I would love any feedback or suggestions. Is there something you would like to see covered? Any other thoughts on the format? Shoot me an email and let me know. As always, I can be reached at email@example.com.
Editor’s note: This post contains vulgar language that isn’t suitable for children and quite possibly many adults. If you’re an email subscriber, your spam filter probably won’t like it, either. Also, it is quite long.
A federal court of appeals recently ruled in favor of a man who called a group of police officers “bitch ass fucking pigs,” “motherfuckers,” and “dirty rat bastards.” It found that his arrest on disorderly conduct charges was unjustified because “mere epithets” directed at a law enforcement officer, no matter how coarse or profane, do not constitute fighting words and are protected by the First Amendment. Wood v. Eubanks, 25 F.4th 414 (6th Cir. 2022). This raises the question: do police officers really have to put up with this? Continue reading →
Matthew Fishman, a sergeant in the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, was shot and killed this week while attempting to serve involuntary commitment papers. He leaves behind a wife and two children, as well as many other friends and family members. Two other deputies were also shot but will survive. The man they were trying to serve shot and killed himself before a SWAT team entered his home. ABC11 has the story here. Read on for more, and less tragic, news. Continue reading →
Over the past several months, I’ve been dropping by clerks’ offices to look at search warrants. I’ve made it to six offices, including offices in eastern, central, and western North Carolina, and in urban and rural areas. I’ve reviewed and made notes on 279 warrants and have at least skimmed hundreds more. The warrants I’ve reviewed were sought by 38 different agencies for a range of offenses. What follows are a few observations based on what I saw. Continue reading →
Last week, Jamie blogged about the 2021 Structured Sentencing Statistical Report from the North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission. As Jamie noted, that report contains detailed information related to felony and misdemeanor sentences imposed in Fiscal Year 2021, including the most commonly used felony grid cell, the number of convictions by district, average probation length, and typical sentencing outcomes for the most charged offenses. Because that report analyzes felony and misdemeanor convictions and sentences imposed under the Structured Sentencing Act, it does not include information about one of the most commonly charged misdemeanors in North Carolina: driving while impaired, which is sentenced under the sentencing scheme set out in G.S. 20-179. The Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission prepares a separate report each year analyzing those convictions, and the Driving While Impaired Convictions Statistical Report for Fiscal Year 2021 is available here. Read on for highlights from the report, which contains data about convictions under G.S. 20-179 from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021. Continue reading →
The indispensable search and seizure legal reference is back and better than ever! That’s right, the sixth edition of Arrest, Search, and Investigation in North Carolina is now available for purchase here on the School of Government’s website. Read on for more information about the content, changes, and pricing of the new edition. Continue reading →