State v. Julius, the Automobile Exception, and the Exclusionary Rule

Joanna Julius was riding as a passenger in her parents’ car in McDowell County when the person driving the car crashed it into a ditch filled with water. The driver fled the scene. Law enforcement officers responded and searched the car for evidence of the driver’s identity. When they found drugs inside, they arrested Julius and searched her backpack. There, they found more drugs, a pistol, and cash.

Julius was indicted for drug trafficking and related offenses. She moved to suppress the evidence gathered at the scene on the basis that the car was unlawfully searched. The trial court disagreed, and Julius was convicted. She appealed. A divided panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed. Last month, the North Carolina Supreme Court reversed, holding that the search violated the Fourth Amendment. See State v. Julius, ___ N.C. ___, 892 S.E.2d 854 (2023). This post will discuss the court’s analysis of whether the search was lawful and its remanding of the case for consideration of whether the exclusionary rule barred admission of the resulting evidence.

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Resurrecting the Good Faith Exception in North Carolina?

Conventional wisdom says that unlike the federal court system, we do not have a good faith exception under North Carolina law. Even though G.S. 15A-974 was amended in 2011 and now expressly provides for a statutory good faith exception, most practitioners agree that its use remains off limits under our state constitution unless and until State v. Carter is overruled.

If you had asked me a month ago, I would have confidently said “yep, that’s the law.” Today, I’m a little less sure. Two recent Court of Appeals decisions have renewed the question of whether Carter actually says what we think it does.

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The Independent Source Exception to the Exclusionary Rule under the United States Constitution

I discussed the inevitable discovery exception in my last post. This post will discuss the independent source exception, particularly the United States Supreme Court cases of Segura v. United States, 468 U.S. 796 (1984), and Murray v. United States, 487 U.S. 533 (1988), and related North Carolina cases. It should be noted that the independent source exception was initially adopted in Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, 251 U.S. 385 (1920), and can apply to investigations involving Fourth, Fifth, or Sixth Amendment violations.

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The Inevitable Discovery Exception to the Exclusionary Rule under the United States Constitution

Two important exceptions to exclusionary rules under the federal constitution were adopted by the United States Supreme Court within a month of each other in 1984: (1) the inevitable discovery exception in Nix v. Williams, 467 U.S. 431 (1984), and (2) the independent source exception in Segura v. United States, 468 U.S. 796 (1984); see also the later case of Murray v. United States, 487 U.S. 533 (1988). These two exceptions continue to be litigated. This post will discuss the inevitable discovery exception, and my next post will discuss the independent source exception.

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Utah v. Strieff and the Attenuation Doctrine

(Author’s note:  The concluding paragraph of this post was amended after its publication to include the number of outstanding warrants and orders for arrest on July 1, 2016.)

Every year, the June trifecta throws me off my game. First, school lets out so I have to acclimate to a schedule of camps that vary in operating hours, locations, necessary equipment, and participating child. Second, the district court judges convene for their annual conference where I join them to oversee the program and to lecture about criminal law cases decided since the previous October. Third, the United States Supreme Court winds up its term, invariably deciding significant criminal law cases the very week of the conference. Since judges are no better than my children in cutting me a little slack (Am I really the only mother who didn’t know you needed to bring a racket to tennis camp?), they bombarded me the day the conference began to ask about the attenuation doctrine and its application in Utah v. Strieff (decided the day before). I mumbled something about the Christian burial speech and quickly asked how their summers were going. Now that June is behind me, I’ve collected my thoughts and am prepared to talk about Strieff.

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Riley and Good Faith

The Supreme Court ruled in Riley v. California that cell phones can’t be searched incident to arrest. Jessie explained in yesterday’s post that Riley applies to cases that were pending when it was decided. Does that mean that the results of all the cell phone searches incident to arrest conducted before Riley was decided must … Read more


State v. Wilson: Constitutional Violations Associated with DWI Blood Draw Not a Basis for Dismissal of Charges

Kelvin Wilson’s DWI case made the front page of Lawyer’s Weekly last January.  Wilson was arrested for impaired driving in Winston-Salem and taken to the hospital. When he physically resisted having his blood drawn, a police officer sat on him to facilitate the extraction. The blood evidence was suppressed (with the State’s agreement) at Wilson’s … Read more

Davis v. United States and the Future of the Exclusionary Rule

Virtually all courts interpreted Belton v. New York, 453 U.S. 454 (1981), to authorize a law enforcement officer to search the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle incident to the arrest of any recent occupant of the vehicle. Then the Supreme Court decided Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. __ (2009), discussed here, among other places. … Read more

New North Carolina Legislation on Good Faith Exception to Exclusionary Rules

[Editor’s note: This is Bob’s first post. We’re excited to welcome him to the blog.] With the Governor’s signature on March 18, 2011, House Bill 3 became law (Session Law 2011-6), effective for all hearings or trials beginning on or after July 1, 2011. It contains two provisions concerning the good faith exception to the … Read more

The Exclusionary Rule and Probation Hearings

North Carolina’s appellate courts have long said that a proceeding to revoke probation is not a criminal prosecution or a formal trial. Instead, probation hearings are generally regarded as informal or summary. State v. Hewett, 270 N.C. 348 (1967). Formal rules of evidence do not apply at violation hearings, meaning hearsay is generally admissible. G.S. … Read more