The Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment generally guarantees a criminal defendant the right to confront and cross-examine his accusers in person. If a witness was available for an earlier trial or other proceeding and the defendant had an opportunity and motive to cross-examine the witness there, the witness testimony from the earlier proceeding may be admitted at a later criminal trial without offending the Confrontation Clause if the witness is unavailable at the time of trial. We have known for some time that this “prior opportunity for cross-examination” can be met at various stages of a criminal proceeding. See State v. Rollins, 226 N.C. App. 129 (2013) (testimony from plea hearing provided prior opportunity for cross); State v. Ross, 216 N.C. App. 337 (2011) (same for testimony at probable cause hearing); State v. Ramirez, (2003) (same for testimony at bond hearing, although the case was decided under hearsay rules and not expressly as a confrontation issue); State v. Chandler, 324 N.C. 172 (1989) (same for testimony from a prior trial); State v. Giles, 83 N.C. App. 487 (1986) (same for testimony from a juvenile transfer hearing). In all those cases, though, the defendant was present at the earlier proceeding, was represented by counsel, and the earlier proceedings could naturally be viewed as a part of the underlying criminal case. In State v. Joyner, 2022-NCCOA-525, ___ N.C. App. ___ (2022), the Court of Appeals expands the concept of prior opportunity to cross to a civil hearing where the defendant did not attend the hearing and was not entitled to counsel. Read on for the details.
Lately I have received a number of questions relating to whether it is appropriate to return guns following a temporary firearms disqualification. The issue seems to arise most commonly when a domestic violence restraining order (“DVPO”) is issued under Chapter 50B of the North Carolina General Statutes, which requires the surrender of guns by a defendant in certain circumstances and allows the defendant to seek return of the guns following the expiration of the order and final disposition of any related criminal charges. See G.S. 50B-3.1.
The issue of returning guns could pop up in other circumstances involving the seizure or surrender of guns. An interplay of state and federal law determines whether a person is disqualified from possessing firearms, temporarily or permanently, and some of the wrinkles are counterintuitive. This post examines some of the most common grounds for disqualification and discusses some limits of state authority in this area. It’s long, but I hope readers find it useful.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated in response to helpful feedback from a reader.
A few weeks ago, my colleague Jill Moore asked me to participate in a recorded interview addressing whether certain disturbing or threatening behavior from citizens directed at public officials and employees could support criminal prosecution. Jill is an expert in public health law so the questions she posed related primarily to concerns raised by officials and employees who work in that field. More recently, another colleague advised that social services employees had similar questions. I thought it might be helpful to share here my thoughts on the questions they posed.