As far as I know, July 21, 2015, was a pretty normal day at the North Carolina Court of Appeals. The court published around a dozen opinions. Most of them dealt with issues like worker’s compensation and equitable distribution, but there were a few criminal cases. One of them was State v. Saldierna, a juvenile interrogation case, which was later reversed. Bob Farb blogged about that here.
In other words, just another day at the office.
The court also released more than 30 additional opinions on the same day, on the same website, written by the same judges, and many of them addressed hot-button criminal topics like lay witness identification of drugs, custodial interrogations of juveniles, sufficiency of a drug indictment, and improper closing arguments.
But those cases were marked as “unpublished,” so we all pretty much just ignored them and pretended they didn’t happen.
Wait… what? What are unpublished cases? We’re told that citing to them is “disfavored,” so are they good law or not? Who decides which cases make the cut for publication? And more importantly — why? In a digital world where cases are available online, what does “unpublished” really mean? And why are we talking about July 21, 2015?
Presentments have been a hot topic lately and the court of appeals just issued a decision involving a presentment. This post explains the controversy and the significance of the recent opinion. Continue reading →
Last month, the court of appeals ruled that the pattern jury instruction for felony indecent exposure was inadequate given the facts of the case before it. The case is State v. Hoyle. Continue reading →
I’ve blogged before about whether law enforcement officers may go to a side door, or the back door, when attempting to conduct a knock-and-talk. The court of appeals just decided another case on point, again holding that an officer generally may not do so. Continue reading →
When a search warrant application fails to establish probable cause, the problem isn’t normally that the applicant didn’t have probable cause. It’s that the applicant failed to include important facts that he or she knew. An example of the phenomenon is State v. Lewis, decided this week by the court of appeals.Continue reading →
Here’s a question for you: which of the following injuries is more serious?
The victim, a police officer injured while fighting with a suspect, “sustained puncture wounds [from bites] on his left forearm and right bicep.” The officer testified that the bites were extremely painful, and they caused “severe bruising and depressions, [and] permanent scarring . . . includ[ing] a large circle on his right bicep, ‘just over a half an inch to an inch in a circle’ with a ‘large depression[,]’ and ‘a deep ridge’ on his left arm. The officer experienced loss of sleep and extreme stress [and] had to be tested multiple times for communicable diseases.”
The victim, a six-year-old girl injured when her father “forcibly twisted” her leg until it broke, suffered a “spiral fracture” of her femur. A physician described such fractures as “incredibly painful,” and the child required morphine to control her discomfort. She was placed in traction and underwent surgery to place titanium rods in her leg. The surgery resulted in lifelong scars. The victim was in a cast for several weeks, and used a wheelchair and a walker during her recovery. She regained the full use of her leg in five to eight months, but had to repeat kindergarten as a result of missing so much school.
You can vote on the answer below. Once you have voted, read on to see how the court of appeals viewed these two scenarios.
The court of appeals recently decided that an indictment alleging that a defendant stole some shirts from “Belk’s Department Stores, an entity capable of owning property,” did not sufficiently identify the victim as an entity capable of owning property. State v. Brawley, __ N.C. App. __, __ S.E.2d __, 2017 WL 4632820 (Oct. 17, 2017). This post summarizes the decision, considers the possibility of further review, and explains how other states handle this issue. Continue reading →
A few years ago, I wrote a blog post (here) about the corpus delicti rule. That rule popped up in a recent court of appeals case, State v. Messer. Here’s a refresher and an update on the new case. Continue reading →
Last year, the court of appeals ruled that a citation that failed to allege an essential element of an offense was sufficient to serve as the State’s pleading. The court concluded that “the standard for issuance of an indictment [which must allege every essential element of an offense to be valid] is not precisely the same as [for] a citation,” and under the more relaxed standard, the citation adequately identified the offense even though it failed to allege an essential element. State v. Allen, __ N.C. App. __, 783 S.E.2d 799 (2016) (an officer cited a motorist for an open container violation, but failed to allege that the container was in the passenger compartment of the defendant’s vehicle; more information about Allen is here).
Last week, a divided panel of the same court ruled that a citation that failed to allege multiple elements of an offense was sufficient. The new opinion raises questions about just how low the bar is for citations, and perhaps for other district court pleadings as well.Continue reading →