Drug Users, Drug Sellers, and Probable Cause

Here’s a common fact pattern: Officers find a person in possession of drugs. The officers say, in effect, “we won’t arrest you if you’ll tell us who sold you the drugs.” The person then reports having recently purchased the drugs from a particular person at that person’s home. Does this provide probable cause to support a search warrant for the supplier’s home?

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Revisiting State v. Jackson, the Pedestrian Evasion Case

Last summer, I wrote about State v. Jackson, __ N.C. App. __, 758 S.E.2d 39 (2014), in which the court of appeals ruled that an officer lacked reasonable suspicion to stop a pedestrian who engaged in what the officer viewed as suspicious and evasive behavior. Last month, the state supreme court reversed the court of appeals. The opinion is here; my summary and analysis of it is below.

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Authentication and GPS Tracking

I’ve had more and more questions about introducing GPS tracking data in criminal trials. When I think about digital evidence, I think about authentication as the first hurdle. This post summarizes the law regarding the authentication of GPS data. GPS data may come into criminal cases in several ways: because law enforcement placed a tracking … Read more

Testimony about Tracking

More and more criminal cases involve electronic tracking. Sometimes the defendant is tracked using GPS, other times using cell site location information. Either way, interesting evidentiary questions arise. May an officer who knows how to use a tracking device testify about tracking, even if she doesn’t know much about how the underlying technology works? Who … Read more


Imposing Fees for Forensic Expert Testimony — Is It Constitutional?

Tucked into the 2013 North Carolina budget bill is a provision imposing new court costs for expert witnesses who testify about chemical or forensic analyses at trial. Specifically, the new law (sec. 18B.19 of the budget bill) provides that upon conviction the trial judge must require a convicted defendant to pay $600 in costs if … Read more


N.C. App. Holds that Maryland v. Craig Survives Crawford

In a case decided earlier this month, the North Carolina Court of Appeals held that Maryland v. Craig, which allows certain child abuse victims to testify by way of closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems, survives Crawford. Crawford, of course, is the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2004 decision radically revamping confrontation clause analysis. As a general rule, the … Read more

Calling the Complainant a “Victim”

Defendants sometimes argue, usually in sexual assault cases, that the complaining witness should not be called a “victim” during court proceedings. The basis of the argument is that using that term assumes the very fact to be proved, namely, the the defendant committed a crime against the complainant. Several courts around the country have accepted … Read more