A Change to Probation’s Policy on Ordinary Extensions

If you’ve noticed an uptick in probation hearings on extensions, today’s post may help explain why. As of last month, Community Corrections will no longer seek ordinary extensions of probation without notice and a hearing. In other words, they will no longer seek “in chambers” extension orders, even when the defendant consents to them. Continue reading

Immigration Detainers

Sometimes, after a defendant has been arrested for a crime, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer will file an immigration detainer with the agency that has custody of the defendant. The detainer asks the agency to notify ICE when the defendant would otherwise be eligible for release — for example, because the defendant has posted bond, or because the charges against the defendant have been dismissed — and to hold the defendant for up to 48 hours thereafter to enable ICE to take custody of the defendant. I have often wondered about the authority for holding a defendant pursuant to such a detainer. Recent developments indicate that courts are increasingly wondering about that too. Continue reading

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News Roundup

As the Washington Post reports, the Senate confirmed Christopher A. Wray as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation earlier this week.  Wray served as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division of the Justice Department from 2003 to 2005.  At the Justice Department, Wray worked under former FBI director James Comey who was serving as Deputy Attorney General during that time.  Wray was confirmed with bipartisan support, and was sworn in by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday.  Keep reading for more news.
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Classifying Prior Convictions for Sentencing Purposes

When determining a defendant’s prior record level for felony sentencing, prior convictions count for points according to their classification as of the offense date of the crime now being sentenced. G.S. 15A-1340.14(c). That law helps modernize a person’s record, treating it according to present-day classification standards as opposed to those that existed at the time of the prior offenses themselves. The rule can cut in either direction. If the offense class of the prior conviction has increased between the time of the prior and present offenses, the prior counts for points according to the higher offense class. If the offense class has decreased, the prior counts at its new, reduced level.

The rule is simple enough to apply when an offense classification for a single crime is ratcheted up or down. What do you do, though, when a person has a prior conviction for an offense that has since been split into multiple offenses with different classifications? A recent case gives some guidance. Continue reading

Counties May Impose Civil Penalties for Passing a Stopped School Bus

Four years ago, the General Assembly increased the criminal fine for passing a stopped school bus and enacted new license revocation and registration hold provisions. During the previous year—2012—there had been more than 1,300 misdemeanor charges for passing a stopped school bus and three felony charges, two for unlawfully passing a stopped school bus and striking a person and one for doing so and causing death. Not much has changed. In 2016, there were 1,400 misdemeanor charges for passing a stopped school bus and three felony charges for doing so and striking a person. This year, the General Assembly took a different tack. S.L. 2017-188 (S 55) authorizes counties to adopt ordinances that enforce the provisions of G.S. 20-217 by means of automated school bus safety cameras and impose civil penalties for violations.  Continue reading

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Expanded Expunction Opportunities

In S.L. 2017-195 (S 445), the General Assembly made several changes to North Carolina’s expunction laws. Most importantly, the act expands the availability of relief in two ways: it reduces the waiting period to expunge older nonviolent felony and misdemeanor convictions, and it allows a person to obtain an expunction of a dismissal regardless of whether the person received any prior expunctions. Because the act states that it applies to petitions filed on or after December 1, 2017, the revised statutes apply to offenses, charges, and convictions that occur before, on, or after December 1, 2017. The tradeoff for this expansion is that information about expunctions, maintained by the Administrative Office of the Courts and otherwise confidential, is available for review by the prosecutor and useable to calculate prior record level at sentencing if the person is convicted of a subsequent offense. This part of the act applies to expunctions granted on or after July 1, 2018. The act makes other changes to create more consistency and uniformity in the expunction process. Continue reading

New Restrictions on Citizen-Initiated Criminal Process

A colleague stopped into my office the other day to ask “did the General Assembly get rid of citizen-initiated warrants?” No, but it did make some significant changes to the procedure. Continue reading

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News Roundup

The Associated Press reports that the investigation into the Word of Faith Fellowship congregation in Spindale is expanding into questions of whether church members enticed Brazilians to come to North Carolina and then forced them to work without pay.  As is alleged to be the case with other church members, Brazilian former members of the church reportedly have told investigators that, in addition to being forced to work, they were subjected to physical and emotional abuse as a method of religious practice.  Keep reading for more news.

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Is G.S. 90-96(a) Mandatory or Discretionary?

Whether or not to grant a conditional discharge for an eligible defendant under G.S. 90-96(a) used to be within the discretion of the trial judge. In 2011, Justice Reinvestment made G.S. 90-96(a) mandatory for eligible defendants who consented to it. Two years later, it was once again made discretionary. Or was it? Continue reading

NC Regulates Fully Autonomous Vehicles

Last month, the General Assembly ratified a bill authorizing the operation of fully autonomous vehicles on state roadways. The legislation is effective December 1, 2017.  If you expect your car to begin driving you to work later this fall, however, you’ll be disappointed. In this instance, legislation has outpaced the technology it regulates.

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