News Roundup

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The big news at this time of year is usually basketball-related, and Duke’s fantastic win last night to earn a Final Four berth certainly deserves mention. But because not everyone shares my enthusiasm for the Blue Devils, I’ll try to restrain myself and focus mainly on criminal law matters.

1. The News and Observer recently reprinted a New York Times story on how various states are coping with “sexting,” a phenomenon about which I’ve blogged before. As far as I know, the General Assembly hasn’t looked at this issue yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it do so, given the imperfect fit between our child pornography laws and sexting.

2. The historic Chatham County courthouse was destroyed by fire last Thursday. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Though no longer used for most court proceedings, the building housed many court offices and was the architectural heart of quaint downtown Pittsboro. The cause of the fire hasn’t been determined, but there’s been no immediate indication of foul play.

3. Law enforcement officers who have probable cause to search a place, but who have reason to worry that someone will destroy the evidence therein before a search warrant can be obtained, have the authority to temporarily seize the location pending the warrant application. See generally Robert L. Farb, Arrest, Search and Investigation in North Carolina 88 (3rd ed. 2003). Recently, the Ninth Circuit decided a case that helps answer the question, how long can the temporary seizure last? In United States v. Cha, a unanimous panel determined that “the seizure of the [defendants’] residence, which lasted a minimum of 26.5 hours, was constitutionally unreasonable.” An interesting write-up about the case, which originated in Guam, is here.

4. Two scholars with the Latino Migration Project at UNC just released a report on the so-called 287(g) programs that enable local law enforcement agencies to check arrestees’ immigration status and begin deportation proceedings for illegal immigrants. The full report, which is critical of the programs as implemented in North Carolina, is here. A News and Observer story about it is here.

5. Finally, I don’t usually have much use for articles that glamorize criminals, but this Wired magazine piece profiling thief Gerald Blanchard opens with a description of Blanchard parachuting, at night, onto the roof of a Viennese castle as part of a jewelry heist. It sounds like a movie, or a video game. Less impressive criminals include the Mafia hit man who the police tracked through Facebook, and the intoxicated Pennsylvania man who was arrested after giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a dead Possum. Gross. As a sidebar, I checked via Google, and I don’t think that the phrase “locking lips with the lifeless marsupial” has ever appeared in print before.

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