Judge Spainhour Stepping Down as Sentencing Commission Chair

After nearly 18 years at the helm, Judge Erwin Spainhour is stepping down as chairman of the North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission. Today’s post takes a moment to recognize his service and the good work done by the Commission under his leadership. Continue reading

State v. Scaturro Clarifies Duties of Drivers Involved in Injury Crashes

The general rule for a driver involved in a crash in which a person is injured or at least $1,000 in property damages occurs is this: The driver must stop his vehicle at the scene and must remain there with the vehicle until a law enforcement officer completes the crash investigation or authorizes the driver to leave and the vehicle to be removed. There is, however, an exception to this rule. That exception led to yesterday’s court of appeals opinion in State v. Scaturro, reversing a driver’s conviction on charges that he left the scene of a crash. Continue reading

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Criminal Law Music

Over the weekend I indulged my passion for music, which started me thinking about the overlap between music and my day job at the School of Government—in other words, songs that involve criminal law. Once I started, it wasn’t hard to come up with several examples, in different genres and about different phases of criminal proceedings. My choices, below, show that we are products of our eras; they date me. What songs about criminal law stand out for you? Continue reading

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Don’t Instruct the Jury on a Theory that’s Not Supported by the Evidence

Some offenses can be proved by alternative theories. For example, impaired driving occurs when a person drives while (1) while under the influence of an impairing substance, (2) after consuming a sufficient quantity of alcohol that the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more at any relevant time after the driving, or (3) with any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance or its metabolites in his or her blood or urine. See Jessica Smith, North Carolina Crimes: A Guidebook on the Elements of Crime (7th ed. 2012). The three options noted above constitute three separate theories upon which an impaired driving conviction can rest. Similarly, kidnapping occurs when a person (1) confines, (2) restrains, or (3) removes a person and other elements are satisfied. Id. The three options—confines, restrains, or removes—constitute three separate theories upon which a kidnapping conviction can rest. Sometimes alternative theories are bound up in the definition of an element of an offense. For example, first-degree sexual assault with a child requires, among other things, that the defendant engage in a “sexual act” with the victim. Id. The term sexual act is defined to include, in part, (1) cunnilingus, (2) analingus, (3) fellatio, and (4) anal intercourse. Id. These acts constitute separate theories that can support a sex offense conviction. Continue reading

News Roundup

The News & Observer reports that Governor Roy Cooper filed a lawsuit against legislative leaders last Friday that, among other things, contends that the new law that reduces the number of judges on the Court of Appeals impermissibly changes the length of a judge’s term without a supporting amendment to the state constitution.  The Observer report says the lawsuit is “one of a series that Cooper . . . has filed since taking office in January” and is part of an ongoing power struggle between Cooper and legislative leaders.  Keep reading for more news.

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Lifetime SBM without Lifetime Registration

The trial court’s order regarding sex offender registration and satellite-based monitoring (SBM) in State v. Johnson was wrong in part. But also right in part. But ultimately wrong. Continue reading

County of Los Angeles v. Mendez: Excessive Force Claims and the End of the Provocation Rule

Suppose a law enforcement officer enters the front door of your home without a warrant. You are asleep when he enters, but wake up when you hear the door open. You pick a gun up from your nightstand and walk toward the front door.

The officer sees you coming toward him with the gun pointed in his direction.

Is it reasonable for him to shoot you? Is the entity that employed the officer liable for your injuries? Continue reading

News Roundup

A suspected suicide bombing that killed twenty-two people at a concert in Manchester, England, is the major news story of the week.  BBC News has an overview of the situation here.  A 22-year-old Manchester man, Salman Abedi, has been named as the suspected bomber, and seven other men, some of whom are related to Abedi, had been arrested in connection with the attack at the time of writing.  The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the bombing, and the U.K. has raised its terror threat level from “severe” to “critical,” meaning that another attack may be imminent.  Keep reading for more news.

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Not All Warrantless Searches of Probationers Are “Directly Related” to Probation Supervision

Since 2009, all North Carolina probationers are subject to a regular condition of probation allowing warrantless searches of their person, vehicle, and premises by a probation officer. Under legislation passed that year, those searches must be for purposes “directly related to the probation supervision.” G.S. 15A-1343(b)(13). How related to probation must a search be to be “directly related”? A recent case sheds some light. Continue reading

Marsy’s Law for North Carolina?

Earlier this month, the North Carolina House overwhelmingly passed House Bill 551, An Act to Amend the Law and Constitution of North Carolina to Provide Better Protections and Safeguards to Victims. The bill now awaits consideration by the Senate, where it has been referred to the Committee on Rules and Operations. The legislation is championed by the advocacy group, Marsy’s Law for All, which is seeking to amend state constitutions and, ultimately, the U.S. Constitution to enshrine victims’ rights. What is the impetus for Marsy’s Law and how would enactment of the constitutional amendment proposed in House Bill 551 change North Carolina’s existing constitutional and statutory protections for victims? Continue reading

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