Report from Sentencing Commission Analyzes DWI Dispositions in 2020

Recently I was asked to teach about sentencing in impaired driving cases. I thought the audience might want to know not just the law governing sentencing for impaired driving but also what sentences typically are imposed in those cases. For the latter, I turned to the North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission’s Fiscal Year 2020 Statistical Report on Driving While Impaired convictions. There one can find information about the percentages of impaired driving convictions sentenced at each of the six levels of punishment under G.S. 20-179, the types of sentences imposed by sentencing level, average sentence length for active and suspended sentences, and the average days of special probation (imprisonment) ordered by punishment level — among other data. Read on for highlights from the report, which contains data about convictions under G.S. 20-179 from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020.

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News Roundup

As USA Today reports, the defense rested this week in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager from Antioch, Illinois who fatally shot two people and seriously injured a third while acting as a vigilante property guard in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during intense protests following the police shooting of Jacob Blake last summer.  Rittenhouse, who has testified and asserted self-defense, faces various charges, including first-degree intentional homicide, the most serious homicide offense in Wisconsin.  Keep reading for more on this story and other news.

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Measuring Justice Dashboard

The UNC School of Government Criminal Justice Innovation Lab recently launched the first version of its new Measuring Justice Dashboard. Here’s some information about our new data visualization tool.

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New SOG Bulletin: “When and How Criminal-Defense Attorneys Can Obtain Access to Confidential Child Welfare and Juvenile Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency Records”

I am happy to announce the publication of my new bulletin, “When and How Criminal-Defense Attorneys Can Obtain Access to Confidential Child Welfare and Juvenile Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency Records.” I hope it is of help to anyone needing to determine criminal attorney access to these protected records.

Consider these common scenarios. A criminal attorney learns that a county department of social services (DSS) or equivalent agency has been involved with that attorney’s client and family. Or maybe the attorney believes that the DSS has investigated a report of suspected abuse, neglect, or dependency that involves a witness or alleged victim in the criminal case. How can the criminal attorney access existing child-welfare and juvenile abuse, neglect, and dependency records that may be relevant to the criminal case?

Alternatively, a respondent parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker in a juvenile abuse, neglect, and dependency (A/N/D) action has been charged criminally. The criminal attorney asks the attorney representing the same individual in the A/N/D matter to share records and information relating to the A/N/D proceeding. What can the A/N/D attorney share with the criminal attorney?

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News Roundup

WLOS reports that the Buncombe County Farm Bureau is offering a $5,000 reward for information related to four barn fires in the county that may have been intentionally set.  Fires broke out at four barn structures in the western part of the county on Wednesday morning.  One of the barns was 80 years old.  Keep reading for more news. Continue reading

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Case Summaries: N.C. Court of Appeals (Nov. 2, 2021)

This post summarizes published criminal decisions from the North Carolina Court of Appeals published on November 2, 2021. As always, these summaries will be added to Smith’s Criminal Case Compendium, a free and searchable database of case summaries from 2008 to present. Continue reading

Final Report: Judicial District 2 Bail Project

In January 2020, North Carolina’s Second Judicial District (Beaufort, Hyde, Martin, Tyrrell, and Washington Counties) implemented two consensus bail reform initiatives. First, they implemented a structured decision-making tool for magistrates to use when making bail decisions. Among other things, the tool:

  • creates a presumption for conditions other than a secured bond for people charged with Class 3 misdemeanors;
  • provides screening factors to quickly identify individuals charged with intermediate-level cases (defined by local policy to include Class A1 – 2 misdemeanors and Class F – I felonies) who can be released on a condition other than a secured bond;
  • affords those charged with Class A – E felonies no special presumptions or screening; and
  • embeds within the decision-making process the statutory requirement that conditions other than a secured bond must be imposed absent a risk of non-appearance, injury to any person, or interference with the criminal proceeding.

Second, stakeholders implemented new first appearances for individuals detained on misdemeanor charges to ensure timely judicial review of bail.

These reforms were developed by a stakeholder team including judges, prosecutors, public defenders, clerks, magistrates, and law enforcement leaders. One of the team’s goals was to reduce pretrial detentions of individuals who do not pose a pretrial risk but are detained due to inability to pay bail. The UNC School of Government Criminal Justice Innovation Lab supported stakeholders in the development and implementation of reforms and, with support from local stakeholders, conducted an empirical evaluation of their implemented reforms. We recently released a final report (here) on that evaluation. This post summarizes key findings. Continue reading

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Case Summaries: N.C. Supreme Court (Oct. 29, 2021)

This post summarizes published criminal decisions from the North Carolina Supreme Court released on October 29, 2021. As always, these summaries will be added to Smith’s Criminal Case Compendium, a free and searchable database of case summaries from 2008 to present.

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Annual Report from the North Carolina Judicial College

The North Carolina Judicial College was founded in 2005 to expand the education and training the School of Government has provided for judicial branch officials since the 1930s. Judicial College funding has enabled the School to provide more courses for a growing court system and to offer training in small group, interactive educational settings.

Our latest annual report, which we recently distributed to judicial officials in hard copy form, highlights our work and the additions to our faculty over the last fiscal year. We though you might want to check it out.

Not surprisingly, most of our instruction in 2020 and the first half of 2021 was delivered virtually. We connected with our audience through webcams and on-line platforms. Nevertheless, those connections remained strong. Nearly 3,000 participants attended our programs, and we continued to publish and advise about laws and procedures central to the administration of justice.

Thank you to the Judicial Branch officials we are privileged to serve and to our partners at the Administrative Office of the Courts for supporting our work.

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News Roundup

In lieu of a full News Roundup this week, there’s just one thing we want to let you know about because of an upcoming application deadline – the NC Rural Jail Project.

In this project, the UNC SOG Criminal Justice Innovation Lab and RTI International will work with one rural county to help local stakeholders better understand the factors that influence local pretrial practices, including incarceration, and support their efforts to develop solutions that make sense for their community. Interested stakeholders must have a project team headed up by either the Senior Resident Superior Court Judge or the Chief District Court Judge. More information about the project, including a list of eligible rural counties, is here. The application is here. The deadline to apply is November 12. Have questions? Reach out to Lab Project Manager Ethan Rex at rex@sog.unc.edu.

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