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Charlotte NC Criminal Defense Law Blog

Despite bipartisan concerns, Sessions urges more civil forfeiture

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made another policy announcement, again to the dismay of criminal justice reformers and civil rights advocates. Speaking at a meeting of the National District Attorneys Association this week, he said he would again allow federal law enforcement agencies to take hold of property seized by local law enforcement.

The new policy directive is aimed at increasing forfeitures overall. As you may be aware, civil forfeiture is a process in which law enforcement seizes cash and property that officers suspect is related to or was gained from illegal activity. The seizures can take place before any charges are brought and long before a defendant is convicted or acquitted at trial.

Federal judge mulls 'therapeutic polygraphy' as valid treatment

When an Assistant U.S. Attorney called for "therapeutic polygraph" treatments as a condition of a convicted sex offender's supervised release, one federal judge seemed reluctant. It resulted in a three-hour hearing.

There's good reason for that judge's reluctance. It doesn't appear that the use of polygraph tests for therapeutic purposes is terribly well supported, scientifically. As you may know, so-called "lie detector" tests are only admissible as evidence in federal court at individual judges' discretion and are considered outright inadmissible in some courts. The reason? They aren't very accurate.

How criminal charges can affect your medical license

Facing criminal charges is no walk in the park for anyone. Licensed professionals such as doctors can suffer from additional repercussions if a conviction ensues.

The North Carolina Medical Board has the power to decide the consequences in each specific case. According to the law, license revocation may ensue upon conviction of a crime of "moral turpitude," a crime related to practicing medicine or a felony.

Supreme Court may rule on email warrants' reach outside the US

The Trump Administration has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to extend the reach of the 1986 Stored Communications Act and allow the collection of emails that are stored outside the U.S. in foreign server farms. When the Act was passed, most digital information was stored on personal computers. Now, most of it is stored in the cloud, which is made up of servers around the globe.

The issue arose in a 2013 drug trafficking case. Federal agents got a warrant for an email account through Microsoft, seeking both the emails themselves and information pointing to the user's identity. They suspected the email address was being used in the alleged drug trafficking operation.

Should a pregnant addiction sufferer be charged if she overdoses?

A woman in another state has been charged with aggravated assault on an unborn child after she overdosed while seven months pregnant. She now faces up to 20 years in prison.

The tragedy is that she was apparently known to the justice system as a heroin addict and thought likely to overdose. She had spent much of her pregnancy in jail on a charge of retail theft. When she was released recently, she was given a prescription for Narcan, a substance that counteracts the often deadly effects of heroin overdose.

Court strikes down lifetime supervised release order as punitive

A pair of defendants has received a second break on a conviction that once earned them life in prison. After a series of mistakes got their sentences knocked down to thirty years behind bars -- but with lifetime supervised release when they were out. Now an appellate court has ruled that supervised release order was probably meant to let a frustrated judge extend the men's prison terms.

But federal supervised release "is not a punishment in lieu of incarceration," wrote a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

How successful is the ignition interlock program?

Legislators have recognized that simply taking away someone's license after they have received a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol in North Carolina is often not effective at preventing repeat occurrences. The truth is that people still typically need to use their vehicles to get to work or school.

A 'nightmare': domestic abuse charge dismissed against ex-deputy

A point that is often quickly and correctly made regarding domestic violence matters in North Carolina and nationally is that domestic abuse -- where it is proven -- is an unmitigated and pernicious evil. Victims -- spouses, unmarried partners, relatives, children and others -- who suffer in myriad ways from physical, emotional and other forms of violence are often extremely vulnerable and immediately in harm's way. Where acts of abuse are being committed, they must be stopped.

Having said that, it is an ethical imperative to also note that allegations surrounding domestic violence are sometimes far from clear and that the public has a propensity to jump to conclusions before material facts relevant to an accusation are thoroughly presented and weighed.

Strong disapproval of mandatory minimums -- from the federal bench

We noted the stark reversal of a recently implemented -- and notably material -- reform of the criminal justice system in a recent blog post, pointing out in our May 17 entry the sudden departure from policy favored by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder via a new edict pronounced by Jeff Sessions, the current AG.

As we indicated in our post, the so-called "Sessions memo" urges federal prosecutors to once again push for and promote mandatory minimum sentencing outcomes in many drug-related cases that Holder sought to deemphasize through alternative sentencing dispositions.

Should police be relinquishing control of body camera videos?

What we've got here, states a recent NPR news report, is "an ocean of video," coupled with the urgently outstanding question of who should be in charge of controlling its content and dissemination.

Currently, of course, police departments in North Carolina and elsewhere across the country routinely maintain custody and control over the video that is shot by officers wearing body cameras, with many of them using so-called "cloud storage" to maintain their footage. Reportedly, one provider manages more than four million hours of tape for enforcement agencies nationally.

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