Can a criminal sentence include restitution to a victim who has already released the defendant from all damages in a related civil suit?
My ten-year-old daughter asked me a few weeks ago what O.J. Simpson had done. Like the rest of America, she heard news of his parole hearing. What she couldn’t figure out is why people were so interested in when he would be released from jail. I told her about the hotel room and the sports memorabilia. And then I told her about the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. (Don’t judge me: She has older brothers and she has watched so many episodes of Criminal Minds that the damage is already done.) I told her that a great many people thought O.J. had gotten away with murder; that’s why some thought he should stay in jail. With O.J., as with nearly everyone tried in the court of public opinion, allegations of other bad behavior shape the public’s perception of the person’s current predicament.
A defendant charged in district court with the misdemeanor crime of driving while impaired cannot ascertain from the charging document whether he is subject to sentencing at Level A1 (the most serious level) or Level 5 (the least serious). That’s because the aggravating factors that lead to elevated sentencing aren’t considered elements of the offense and thus are not required to be alleged in the charging instrument. Yet because those factors can increase the maximum punishment a defendant may receive, they must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt and, with the exception of prior convictions, be determined by a jury in superior court. And, for most charges of impaired driving prosecuted in superior court, the State must provide notice of its intent to seek aggravating factors. A case decided by the court of appeals last June, however, identifies an exception to this requirement for certain aggravating factors in driving while impaired prosecutions initiated in superior court.
Don’t call the School of Government next week. We’ll all be out. Next week is conference-time for many of the court officials we serve, and we will be traversing the state (driving the speed limit at all times, of course) to speak at various legal conferences. Case updates are a perennial staple of these conference agendas, so I’ve been reviewing last year’s cases with a particular focus on impaired driving. A number of opinions address issues that are frequently litigated in DWI cases, so I thought I’d share the highlights with you in a two-part post. This post reviews the past year’s jurisprudence on implied consent testing and compelled blood draws. Tomorrow’s post will review the recent case law on reasonable suspicion and probable cause for DWI.
In most DWI cases, the State obtains evidence of a defendant’s alcohol concentration from a breath-testing machine. In order for the results of such a breath test to be admissible at trial, the State must follow the procedures set forth in the implied consent statutes, G.S. 20-16.2 and G.S. 20-139.1. Those statutes require, among other things, that a suspect be advised of his right to refuse testing and the consequences of such a refusal and that he be afforded an opportunity to contact a witness to observe the testing. Less frequently, a law enforcement officer will request that a person charged with an implied consent offense such as impaired driving submit to a blood test. Like the breath test results, the analysis of the defendant’s blood sample obtained pursuant to such a request is admissible at trial only if the State follows the procedures set forth in the implied consent statutes. If the request for a blood test follows an earlier request for a breath test, then the officer must re-advise the suspect of his implied consent rights before asking for consent. None of these rules apply, however, when blood is withdrawn pursuant to a search warrant.