Nonstatutory Aggravating Factors

By special request, this post recaps the law of nonstatutory aggravating factors. Under G.S. 15A-1340.16(d), the State may, in addition to the 25 statutory aggravating factors set out in that subsection, attempt to prove “any other aggravating factor reasonably related to the purposes of sentencing.” There’s no universal agreement on the “purposes of sentencing,” but … Read more

News Roundup

Although the General Assembly has finally wrapped up for the year, there’s still been a fair bit of news lately that may be of interest to readers of this blog. 1. First and foremost, the United States Supreme Court recently took the virtually unprecedented step of ordering a hearing on an “original” habeas petition — … Read more

Visual Identification of Drugs (Again)

The longest opinion issued by the court of appeals this week was Judge Ervin’s 45-page treatise in State v. Ward, __ N.C. App. __ (2009). Although the opinion contains other important material, I want to focus on the court’s holding that the method used by an SBI agent to identify certain prescription drugs was “not … Read more

Merger and Felony Murder

I’ve had several questions recently about the merger doctrine as it applies to felony murder. It’s a complicated area, made even more confusing because there are two different doctrines that share the name “merger.” I’m not going to address the merger doctrine that requires the court to arrest judgment on the underlying felony when a … Read more


Distracted Drivers

Editor’s note: The News and Observer has a point/counterpoint today about the merits of the new law against texting while driving. Check it out here and here. The New York Times reported recently that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced plans for a “‘distracted driving summit’”  to be held in September to address legal and policy … Read more

Sawed-Off Shotguns, Automatic Rifles, Hand Grenades, and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction

Last week, the court of appeals decided State v. Watterson, __ N.C. App. __ (2009). The defendant was charged with, and convicted of, two counts of possession of a weapon of mass destruction in violation of G.S. 14-288.8.  The charges were based on the defendant’s possession of two shotguns, each of which had been sawed … Read more

Absconding from Probation

What does it mean to “abscond” from probation supervision? “Absconder” is not defined statutorily; rather, it is defined in Division of Community Corrections (DCC) policy as “an offender who is actively avoiding supervision by making his/her whereabouts unknown to the supervising officer.” DCC makes a searchable list of all absconders available to the public here … Read more


Another Take on the Gates Case

Editor’s note: Much like newspapers sometimes waive the length limit on letters to the editor “to permit a fuller response,” I’m posting in full John Rubin’s detailed counterpoint to my previous post on the Gates case. John’s position is thoughtful and reasonable and I don’t plan to debate the issue further, beyond making the following … Read more

News Roundup

There has been an endless parade of relevant news over the past week or so. First, Justice Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in. This New York Times story about her confirmation gives you the basics if you’ve been living under a rock. Second, I’ve just come back from a week of … Read more