My colleague Jeff Welty recently wrote about S.L. 2023-123 and changes to our death by drug distribution laws. He mentioned changes to the mandatory drug trafficking fines for certain drugs there, but I wanted to follow up on that point with the details. The new law, with new fines for certain controlled substances, takes effect on December 1, 2023. This post examines the coming changes to drug trafficking fines. Consistent with my defender-focused role, it also explores potential constitutional issues defenders might consider raising in cases where the new fines apply.
Recently, I was teaching a class about the habitual felon laws when a participant asked a question that I had never considered. We know that a defendant convicted of drug trafficking may be convicted as a habitual felon, and when that happens, the defendant’s term of imprisonment is determined under Structured Sentencing based on the elevated offense class set forth in the habitual felon statutes, not based on the mandatory term of imprisonment set forth in the trafficking statute. But what about the mandatory minimum fine listed in the trafficking statute? Must that be imposed, or is the defendant “habitualized out” of all the sentencing-related provisions of the trafficking laws? Apparently, this issue comes up regularly in practice.
Earlier this week, the students and I spent the afternoon at Central Criminal Court in London, formerly called the Old Bailey and located at the intersection of Old Bailey and Newgate streets in the heart of London’s law district. I can guarantee that this post will not be as captivating as Rumpole of the Bailey, the British television series about fictional barrister Horace Rumpole. But, like most trips to court, it was certainly interesting.
The School of Government has published a new resource on Monetary Obligations in North Carolina Criminal Cases.
Today’s post considers when a court should—and sometimes must—evaluate a defendant’s ability to pay a monetary obligation in a criminal case.
In my last post I wrote about some of the statutory options for providing relief from various criminal legal financial obligations. Several of my “friends” gave me a hard time about the post, saying the subject must be pretty complicated if I wasn’t able to compile it into some sort of table. Challenge accepted.
Not all types of relief from a criminal monetary obligation trigger the statutory requirements for notice, hearing, and findings.