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News Roundup

Trial began this week in Virginia for Paul Manafort, the onetime chairman of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign who has been charged with a variety of crimes unrelated to the campaign.  Manafort’s current trial involves charges of bank fraud, money laundering, lobbying disclosure violations, and obstruction of justice, with the alleged offenses largely stemming from lucrative political consulting work Manafort performed in Ukraine.  Prosecutors say that Manafort hid his overseas income to avoid taxes, and then committed bank fraud to obtain loans when the income stream dried up.  Manafort is scheduled to face trial on other charges in September.  Keep reading for more news.

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The Domestic Violation Condition of Probation

North Carolina has a regular condition of probation requiring abuser treatment for defendants found responsible for acts of domestic violence. Today’s post discusses the condition, and what happens when a defendant violates it. Continue reading

How the Proposed Constitutional Amendment Would Change Judicial Appointments

This November, North Carolina voters will be asked to vote for or against a “Constitutional amendment to implement a nonpartisan merit-based system that relies on professional qualifications instead of political influence when nominating Justices and judges to be selected to fill vacancies that occur between judicial elections.” If voters approve the amendment, what will change about the way judges are selected in North Carolina?

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Carpenter, Search Warrants, and Court Orders Based on Probable Cause

In Carpenter v. United States, __ U.S. __, __ S.Ct. __, 2018 WL 3073916 (June 22, 2018), the Supreme Court ruled that when the government obtains long-term, historical cell site location information (CSLI) about a person, it conducts a Fourth Amendment search  and so “the Government must generally obtain a warrant supported by probable cause before acquiring such records.” I previously blogged about Carpenter here.

That post referenced the possibility of using a court order supported by probable cause in lieu of a search warrant. The idea behind that suggestion was that some of the statutory execution procedures associated with search warrants are an awkward fit for this type of order. For example, G.S. 15A-252 requires that an officer executing a warrant must “read the warrant and give a copy of the warrant application . . . to the person to be searched, or the person in apparent control of the premises . . . to be searched.” In a case involving CSLI, is the officer supposed to read the warrant to Verizon? Or to the suspect, even though he or she will not be present at the search? But since I wrote my prior post, I’ve been asked several times whether using a court order based on probable cause in place of a search warrant would really be permissible. This post attempts to answer that question. Continue reading

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News Roundup

On Monday, state and federal law enforcement agencies raided three “full-fledged” casinos operating in Robeson County, according to the Fayetteville Observer.  The Observer says that the casinos were located in warehouses in various locations within the county, and that they were being run by members of the Tuscarora Indian Nation Sovereignty Territory.  As the News & Observer explains in another piece about the raids, the “Tuscarora are a federally recognized tribe in New York with ancestral roots in North and South Carolina,” though none of the groups identifying as Tuscarora in North Carolina have received federal recognition.  Keep reading for more news.

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“Pay to Play” Deferred Prosecutions

A district attorney generally has discretion in structuring his or her approach to deferred prosecutions. The DA could have a broad program, allowing deferrals for all defendants who might be eligible as a matter of law. Or there could be no program at all (aside from the handful of diversions that are mandatory in certain circumstances). Regardless, whatever program the State has must not discriminate against defendants based on an improper classification. Characteristics like religion and race obviously are not permissible bases on which to condition access to a deferral program. A more difficult question, though, is what role a defendant’s financial situation may play in the State’s decision to defer prosecution. Continue reading

Marsy’s Law Is on the Ballot; Voters Will Decide Whether it Goes on the Books

There will be six constitutional a­­­mendments on the ballot this November. One of them, S.L. 2018-110 (H 551), expands the constitutional rights of crime victims. Voters will be asked to vote for or against a “Constitutional amendment to strengthen protections for victims of crime; to establish certain absolute basic rights for crimes; and to ensure the enforcement of these rights.” If House Bill 3, ratified yesterday, becomes law no additional explanation of the amendment will appear on the ballot, though the Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission will prepare an explanation of the amendment at least 75 days before the election. If you just can’t wait that long to learn more about the amendment and its effect on existing law, this post is for you.  Continue reading

Search Warrants Authorizing Law Enforcement Computer Hacking and Malware

Suppose that law enforcement becomes aware of criminal activity taking place through a website, like the distribution of child pornography or the sale of illegal drugs. Can officers use computer hacking techniques and malware to identify users who accessed the website? Would the officers need a search warrant to do that? What kind of a search warrant? This post tackles those questions. Continue reading

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News Roundup

Late last week, Justice Department special counsel Robert S. Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for allegedly meddling in the 2016 presidential election.  This week, as a result of an FBI investigation separate from the special counsel, the Justice Department indicted Russian national Maria Butina for illegally acting as an agent of the Russian government in an effort to influence American politics.  Butina allegedly posed as a graduate student at American University while working covertly to develop contacts within political groups in an effort to advance policies favorable to Russia.  Keep reading for more news.

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Community Service

Today’s post covers some of the details of community service as a criminal punishment in North Carolina. Continue reading