Several years ago, two officers working for the Winterville Police Department stopped a car for a traffic violation. Dijon Sharpe was a passenger in the vehicle. Sharpe had some prior negative interactions with police, so he began using his phone to livestream the stop on Facebook Live. One of the officers saw what Sharpe was doing and attempted to grab the phone, saying “We ain’t gonna do Facebook Live, because that’s an officer safety issue.” Sharpe held on to the phone and continued to livestream the stop. One of the officers told him that recording the stop was fine, but that livestreaming was not permissible and that “in the future,” if he attempted to livestream a stop, his phone would be taken from him. Sharpe subsequently sued, contending that the officers violated his First Amendment rights by trying to prevent him from livestreaming the stop. A federal district court dismissed his complaint. Sharpe appealed, and the Fourth Circuit recently issued a significant opinion in the case. Read on to find out what the court said. Continue reading
Tag Archives: first amendment
Fourth Circuit Rules that the First Amendment May Protect a Vehicle Occupant’s Right to Livestream a Traffic Stop
Editor’s note: This post contains vulgar language that isn’t suitable for children and quite possibly many adults. If you’re an email subscriber, your spam filter probably won’t like it, either. Also, it is quite long.
A federal court of appeals recently ruled in favor of a man who called a group of police officers “bitch ass fucking pigs,” “motherfuckers,” and “dirty rat bastards.” It found that his arrest on disorderly conduct charges was unjustified because “mere epithets” directed at a law enforcement officer, no matter how coarse or profane, do not constitute fighting words and are protected by the First Amendment. Wood v. Eubanks, 25 F.4th 414 (6th Cir. 2022). This raises the question: do police officers really have to put up with this? Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
State v. Humphreys and RDO
Last week, the SOG offered a criminal law update featuring various members of the criminal law faculty. If you missed it and are interested viewing the recording, the webinar should be posted here within a few weeks. This post will be familiar to those who attended, as I covered the topic there. Consider watching the program—it is free to view for educational purposes, and a modest cost if you need the CLE credit. For those that prefer their criminal law updates from the blog, read on! Continue reading →
Yesterday the court of appeals vacated Brady Lorenzo Shackelford’s convictions for felony stalking on the basis that the prosecution of Shackelford for violating G.S. 14-277.3A impermissibly infringed upon his constitutional right to free speech. This post will review the court’s opinion in State v. Shackelford, ___ N.C. App. ___ (March 19, 2019), consider how it might affect future prosecutions, and suggest statutory amendments to stave off future constitutional challenges.
Inmates do not forfeit the right to practice their religious faith while they are incarcerated. But of course that right is not unlimited. Officers can impose certain restrictions when an inmate’s religious practices would conflict with the institution’s legitimate interests in safety, security, and good order. There is a lot of case law about those restrictions, both as a constitutional matter under the First Amendment, and under a federal statute, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a)(1)–(2)—which is even more protective of inmates’ rights than the Constitution. Continue reading →
Criminal Law and Protests
Protests are breaking out all over. This weekend, protesters gathered at RDU to oppose President Trump’s travel ban. Last weekend, participants in Women’s Marches took to the streets of Washington and Raleigh. This post considers the criminal law issues that most often arise during protests. Continue reading →
Cyberbullying Statute Struck Down
Last week, the state supreme court unanimously ruled that a provision of North Carolina’s cyberbullying statute, G.S. 14-458.1, “violates the First Amendment.” The case is State v. Bishop, and the opinion is here. I previously wrote here about the court of appeals ruling upholding the statute. This post summarizes the case and discusses the new opinion. Continue reading →
The North Carolina law making it a felony for some sex offenders to go within 300 feet of certain locations intended for children is unconstitutionally overbroad under the First Amendment. Last week, a federal judge permanently enjoined all North Carolina district attorneys from enforcing the law. Continue reading →
Mail Regulation in the Jail
Handling mail to and from inmates is a challenge for jail administrators. Of course they want to enable inmates to handle their legitimate business (including pending legal matters) and maintain family and community ties. On the other hand, they must be on guard against contraband or inappropriate materials coming into the jail, or inmates participating in crimes or planning an escape from within. Inmates have a constitutional right to communicate with others and to access the courts, but those rights are limited by the jail’s obligation to preserve security, good order, and discipline. This post collects some of the basic legal principles that should be incorporated into the jail’s policy on mail regulation. By state administrative regulation, every jail must have a written policy on handling inmate mail. Continue reading →