It has not been long since my last cannabis update, but there are some interesting new developments to report, most notably on drug identification and marijuana. Read on for the details.
Earlier this month, the North Carolina Supreme Court decided State v. Golder, ___ N.C. ___, ___ S.E.2d ___, 2020 WL 1650899 (April 3, 2020). Before that decision, there were somewhat tricky rules about how to preserve appellate review of all issues in a motion to dismiss for insufficiency of the evidence. No more. The Golder decision clarifies that all sufficiency issues are preserved with a properly timed motion to dismiss at trial. This decision overrules a line of cases holding otherwise and simplifies the process of preserving sufficiency issues at trial for defense counsel. Read on for the details.
Consider whether the following facts are sufficient to support a conviction for DWI:
The scene. Law enforcement officers in Avery County respond to a reported accident on the highway leading to Grandfather Mountain around 8:30 p.m. They find a Jeep Cherokee on the side of the highway, with a damaged side panel. Tire impressions indicate that the vehicle traveled about 100 feet after leaving the roadway. A large rock embankment along the roadway is scuffed. No one is in the car, which is registered to Paul Eldred.
The defendant. A law enforcement officer finds Eldred walking along the side of the highway two or three miles north of the accident. Eldred has a mark on his forehead, is twitching, and is unsteady on his feet. The officer asks Eldred why he is walking on the highway. Eldred responds: “I don’t know, I’m too smoked up on meth.” The officer calls for medical help, and Eldred is taken to the hospital.
The interview. Another officer questions Eldred at the hospital around 10 p.m. Eldred explains that he was driving his car when it ran out of gas. He then says “‘he was hurt bad and was involved in a wreck a couple of hours ago.’” Eldred tells the officer that he had not been drinking alcohol. The officer asks whether Eldred has taken any medications, and Eldred says he is “on meth.” During the interview, Eldred is twitching, appears dazed and has difficulty answering questions. He does not know the date, the day of the week, or the time.
Two weeks ago, the SOG hosted over 50 public defenders, contract attorneys, and private assigned counsel at its annual Felony Defender training. The training provides guidance to lawyers transitioning to superior court about handling a felony case from start to finish. Topics include discovery and investigation, pretrial motions, voir dire, and jury instructions, among others. On a personal note, it was my first training in my role as Defender Educator and my first behind-the-scenes look at the effort required to plan and execute a successful course. Without the hard work of the faculty and support staff from the SOG, as well as volunteers from IDS and the private bar, the program would not have been possible. Thanks to everyone that participated. I truly enjoyed the training, especially speaking with the lawyers that attended, and I hope they found it worthwhile as well.
Do the following facts provide probable cause to arrest for impaired driving?
An officer pulls behind a vehicle at a stoplight around 3 a.m. and sees that its registration is expired. He activates his blue lights, and the defendant turns into a nearby parking lot. When the officer approaches the car, the defendant tells him that his license is revoked for DWI. The officer smells a medium odor of alcohol coming from the defendant’s breath and sees that the defendant’s eyes are red and glassy. The officer performs an HGN test, noting 5 of 6 indicators of impairment. The defendant tells the officer that he had three beers at 6 p.m. the previous evening.
The court of appeals answered this question earlier this week in State v. Lindsey, ___ N.C. App. ___ (2016). Its answer, and the outcome of the case, may surprise you.