News Roundup

Several recent news stories that may be of interest:

1. Governor Perdue just signed S 920, which makes substantial changes to the probation laws. For example, it requires all probationers to submit to warrantless searches by probation officers, and to a lesser degree, by law enforcement officers. It also clarifies the tolling provisions of the probation statutes, modifies the requirements for intensive probation, and imposes new rules regarding community service, among other things. The News and Observer’s story about the new law is here; if we’re lucky, Jamie Markham will give us a breakdown soon.

2. In a story that’s a particularly appropriate topic for a blog post, a Virginia woman has been arrested for blogging about the members of a law enforcement drug task force, including posting their pictures, and in at least one case, an officer’s home address. The story — available here — implies that she was trying to expose officers who work undercover as a way of frustrating their efforts. She was charged with harassment of a police officer, a charge that doesn’t exist in North Carolina. Anyone think a charge of resisting, delaying, or obstructing an officer would fly on these facts? Or another charge? Or is this protected speech?

3. Finally, there’s been a tremendous amount of discussion recently about a concurring opinion in a Tenth Circuit felon-in-possession case. The case upheld the defendant’s conviction over a Second Amendment challenge grounded in Heller v. District of Columbia, the Supreme Court case that held that the Constitution protects an individual right to bear arms. Because Justice Scalia’s majority opinion went out of the way to state that nothing in Heller should be taken to cast doubt on the validity of laws preventing felons from carrying firearms, the Tenth Circuit held that the federal felon-in-possession law survived Heller. Concurring judge Tim Tymkovich, however, questioned whether Justice Scalia should have prejudged the felon-in-possession issue, suggesting that nonviolent felons might have the same self-defense rights as nonfelons. You can read the opinion here, and some blogosphere commentary herehere, and here. Unsurprisingly, the defendant plans to petition for certiorari review, and some of the big names in legal academia and appellate practice seem interested enough that this issue might have some legs. For what it’s worth, I note that the federal felon-in-possession law already excludes some nonviolent felons, such as those convicted under the antitrust laws. See 18 U.S.C. s. 921(a)(20)(A). North Carolina’s Felony Fireams Act, however, has no exceptions. See G.S. 14-415.1.