North Carolina is no longer the only state in the U.S. that automatically prosecutes juveniles as adults beginning at age 16. In June, the General Assembly ended a century long practice of prosecuting teens as adults by enacting the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act as part of the 2017 state budget, which raised the age of criminal responsibility to 18. As a result, most 16 and 17-year-olds will be prosecuted in juvenile court beginning December 1, 2019. There are, however, some exceptions. Here’s what you should know about this historic reform. Continue reading
Category Archives: Uncategorized
Our appellate courts are beginning to issue decisions concerning the impact of the General Assembly’s 2011 changes to North Carolina law on self-defense. A case earlier this summer addressed whether a defendant has a duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense in a place where he or she has a “lawful right to be.” See State v. Bass, ___ N.C. App. ___, 802 S.E.2d 477, temp. stay and rev. granted, ___ N.C. ___, 800 S.E.2d 421 (2017). In Bass, the Court of Appeals held that the defendant did not have a duty to retreat and further had the right to have the jury instructed that he did not have a duty to retreat. Continue reading →
This session, the General Assembly passed S.L. 2017-94, which creates a rebuttable presumption that certain domestic violence homicides are premeditated and deliberate and therefore constitute first-degree murder. WRAL explains here that the measure is known as Britny’s Law “in memory of Britny Jordan Puryear, a 22-year-old who was shot and killed by her live-in boyfriend, Logan McLean, in their Fuquay-Varina home on Nov. 6, 2014, after a four-year abusive relationship.” The bill raises many questions, which this post attempts to answer. Continue reading →
Reactions to the events in Charlottesville last week continue to dominate the news this week as confederate monuments across the nation come under renewed scrutiny. A statue of Robert E. Lee was removed from the entrance of Duke University Chapel over the weekend, and the Silent Sam statue on UNC’s campus was the focus of protests that garnered national attention. Several protesters, including a UNC student, were arrested during the Silent Sam demonstration. Over on the SOG’s Coates’ Canons blog, Adam Lovelady has a post discussing a North Carolina statute which limits the circumstances under which monuments may be removed from public property. Once obscure, the statute now is one of the most widely analyzed laws in the state. Keep reading for more news.
I wrote about law enforcement use of drones here, and a little bit here. It is now easier than before for law enforcement agencies to acquire drones, and some agencies have done so. But courts have yet to engage with the Fourth Amendment issues that some uses of drones may present. This post provides an update on where things stand with law enforcement use of drones. Continue reading →
It’s solar eclipse day! Millions of North Carolinians will see today’s eclipse, with those in the far western end of the state experiencing totality. As is my custom when exceedingly rare things happen, I’ll mark the occasion by writing about some things that go beyond our usual subject matter. Continue reading →
The violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, when counter-protesters clashed with hate groups demonstrating in opposition to the city’s removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee is one of the biggest news stories of the year. As the demonstration dispersed, an Ohio man, James Alex Fields Jr., drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one woman, Heather Heyer, and injuring many others. In a separate incident, two Virginia State Police officers monitoring the situation, H. Jay Cullen and Berke Bates, were killed in a helicopter crash. The Charlottesville violence and the responses to it are sobering reminders of America’s continuing struggle with racial and ethnic hostility. Keep reading for more news.
Continue reading →
North Carolina adopted a rule in 1979 to limit the introduction of evidence about the sexual behavior of an alleged victim in criminal trials for rape and other sexual offenses. Before that so-called rape shield rule was enacted, evidence of prosecuting witness’s general reputation for unchastity could be introduced in a rape trial to attack the witness’s credibility and to show the likelihood of his or her consent. See, e.g., State v. Banks, 295 N.C. 399 (1978), overruled on other grounds, State v. Collins, 334 N.C. 54 (1993).
A 1977 report on sexual assaults by the Legislative Research Commission recommended adoption of the rape shield rule “to improve the conduct of sexual assault prosecutions” in the state. Detailed Comments on Draft Law, Legislative Research Commission, Report to the 1977 General Assembly of North Carolina: Sexual Assaults 86 (1977). The commission explained that such prosecutions were “too often conducted in a way that embarrasses or intimidates the victim beyond the defendant’s legitimate interest in a fair trial.” Id. The “chief evil” was the “use of evidence of irrelevant sexual behavior to influence the court and jury, not because it is logically related to any material issue in the proceeding, but because it creases prejudice against the person whose sexual behavior is so demonstrated.” Id. The rule adopted in 1979 is codified in substantially the same form today as Rule 412 of the North Carolina Rules of Evidence.
Nearly forty years after its adoption, the appellate courts continue to refine the scope of the rape shield statute. Several recent cases explore the rule’s limitations and the analysis a trial court must employ when a defendant charged with a sexual offense seeks to admit evidence regarding the prosecuting witness’s sexual conduct.
Huddy, ___N.C. App. ___, 799 S.E.2d 650 (April 18, 2017) was decided earlier this year and reversed the trial court’s denial of a motion to suppress. A unanimous Court of Appeals found that the search of the defendant’s home was not justified under either the knock and talk doctrine or the community caretaking exception to the warrant requirement. The knock and talk portion of the opinion is interesting (indeed, the concurring opinion is devoted solely to that topic) and invalidates the search on those grounds, but I wanted to focus on the community caretaking aspect of the opinion. Jeff previously blogged about the community caretaking exception to the warrant requirement here. Huddy doesn’t answer all of the questions raised in that post about the exception, but the opinion sheds some light on its scope and shows the balancing test for the exception in practice. Continue reading →