Can an Airplane Passenger Ignore the “Fasten Seat Belt” Sign?

I was on a plane recently, listening to the usual safety briefing, when I heard the flight attendant say that “it is a violation of federal law” to ignore illuminated safety signs, such as the “fasten seat belt” sign. I was surprised because, on another flight, I had overheard a flight attendant tell a passenger who wanted to use the bathroom while the “fasten seat belt” sign was illuminated that she couldn’t authorize him to get out of his seat but that she wouldn’t stop him either. The sense I got from that previous exchange was that the sign was essentially a recommendation. So, I decided to look into it. Continue reading

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News Roundup

Wednesday was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the country has celebrated his legacy this week while also reflecting on our national obligation to continue to work towards a society of equal justice.  The Associated Press has republished selections of its contemporaneous coverage of King’s assassination, and the News Hour aired a segment discussing King’s enduring influence on campaigns for civil rights.  Keep reading for more news.

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Relief from Monetary Obligations Aside from Waiver

Not all types of relief from a criminal monetary obligation trigger the statutory requirements for notice, hearing, and findings. Continue reading

Is Your Neighborhood’s 17 MPH Speed Limit Enforceable?

I was out for a run the other day when I saw signs posted on a private pathway advising me not to exceed 7.5 miles per hour since children were playing. Sadly for my split times (but happily for the children at play), I was in no danger of exceeding this limit. Those signs reminded me, however, of a question that I’m asked from time to time: Are the speed limits posted on private subdivision streets enforceable?

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Updated Criminal Defender Manual Chapters

Over the past several months, the Indigent Defense Education group at the School of Government has been working on updating and expanding its free resources for indigent defenders. On our Indigent Defense Manuals website, you can find new editions of the Immigration Consequences Manual and Juvenile Defender Manual as well as the first installment (on motions practice) of a new Practice Guide Series. Also now available are an updated Expunction Guide and a new edition of a general reference for judges and attorneys on Abuse, Neglect, Dependency, and Termination of Parental Rights Proceedings (prepared by our colleagues Sara DePasquale and Jan Simmons with support from the Administrative Office of the Courts Court Improvement Program). For our two-volume criminal defender manual, we’re taking a slightly different approach and are posting chapters as we complete them. The first ones—on Personal Rights of the Defendant and Duties of the Presiding Judge—are hot off the computer and ready for use. In the next several months, we will be posting several more updated chapters in both Volume 1 on pretrial procedure and Volume 2 on trial procedure. Continue reading

When Is a Residence Abandoned under the Fourth Amendment?

An officer normally needs a search warrant to search a residence, unless an exception to the warrant requirement applies. That’s because residences are protected by a reasonable expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment. But what about residences that lie vacant and in disrepair? At what point do they become abandoned such that the reasonable expectation of privacy no longer applies? Continue reading

Probation Modifications for Good Cause

There need not be a violation for the court to modify probation. Continue reading

Rules for Breath Tests in DWI Cases

The easiest way for the State to prove impairment in a prosecution for impaired driving is by introducing the results of a test of the defendant’s breath. Such test results are admissible without the foundation that would otherwise be required for this kind of scientific evidence so long as the testing was carried out in accordance with statutory and administrative rules governing implied consent testing. G.S. 20-139.1(b). Because the rule allowing breath test results to be introduced into evidence is relied upon so often, I thought it might be helpful to review the admissibility rule and the requirements for such tests. Continue reading

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Fifth Circuit: Bail System Violates Due Process & Equal Protection

Organizations around the country have called for bail reform. Here at home, a report by the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice recommended that North Carolina move forward with pretrial justice reform. A recent Fifth Circuit case holding that the bail system in Harris County, Texas violates due process and equal protection may create an impetus for jurisdictions to act: Litigation risk. Continue reading

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News Roundup

The hunt for a serial bomber in Austin, Texas, who killed two people and injured several others with homemade package bombs was this week’s leading national criminal law news story.  After a weeks-long investigation involving state and federal law enforcement agencies, authorities came to suspect that 23-year-old Mark Conditt was the bomber.  As officers closed in on Conditt, he killed himself by detonating a bomb inside his vehicle.  The New York Times has an article describing the meticulous police work that cracked the case, and the Austin Statesman has full coverage of the terrifying bombing spree.  Keep reading for more news.

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