Whether law enforcement has probable cause to search is a critical issue in most drug arrests where the defendant is inside a vehicle. Often times, that probable cause is based on the law enforcement officer's detection of the odor of marijuana. This letter from the State Bureau of Investigations Director opines that law enforcement officers are not able to differentiate between the smell of legal CBD products (which contain small amounts of THC) and marijuana, an illegal controlled substance; and provides additional ammunition to defense attorney's challenging probable cause for searches based on marijuana odor.
For more information on warrantless searches and Constitutional rights, contact Parton & Associates.
When a client is deciding whether or not to file a lawsuit, it is important to analyze what assets a defendant has and whether the defendant will actually be able to pay-up after losing at trial You can’t get water from a stone or blood from a turnip. Sometimes, a defendant has assets, but they’re extremely limited (think single-member LLCs, holding companies etc.). In those cases, clients may be rightfully concerned that the defendant will start dumping assets once they sense litigation coming. Fortunately, under Article 35 in Chapter 1 of the North Carolina General Statutes, there is a mechanism to bring the defendant’s assets under the custody of the court until the conclusion of the case. Attachment is available in anycase that is seeking to secure a judgment for money upon a showing that the defendant has an intent to defraud its creditors by disposing of the property or removing property from the state. The type of property doesn’t matter, it can be a personal property item or a parcel of real estate. When it comes to proving defendant’s intent to defraud, evidence can range from a statement by the defendant to a listing of real property for sale by a real estate company. The potential trap for the plaintiff in using this strategy is the requirement that plaintiff to post a bond, set by the court, in an amount they deem necessary to afford reasonable protections to the defendant. If the evidence of defendant’s intent to dispose of their property is clear, the court may affix a statutory minimum bond. The sheriff then levies the property, prohibiting the defendant from disposing of it until the conclusion of the case.
For some reason, this attachment tool seems to be little known and used even less in North Carolina. Strategic use of the attachment process can greatly increase a client’s likelihood of actually collecting any judgment they are entitled too, removing a significant source of uncertainty that comes with filing a lawsuit.
For more information on strategic use of statutory liens and commercial litigation, contact Parton & Associates, PLLC.
Drafted by J. Burton Powell with edits from Corey V. Parton
Interesting case from just North of the Virginia State line. The alleged value in this dispute is the network of Twitter "followers" that the Reporter developed during his employment with the Paper. In North Carolina, the law generally holds that customer lists do not constitute "trade secrets" and can't be the basis of a legal claim. In the newspaper industry where the customers are the readers, could there be an argument that Twitter followers are really just a list of readers/customers? https://bit.ly/2KBs73H
For information on trade secret misappropriation and other commercial law issues, contact the team at Parton & Associates. http://www.partonnc.com/commercial-litigation.html
The Equal Justice Initiatives’ (“EJI”) National Memorial for Peace and Justice recently unveiled The Legacy Museum, dedicated to the victims of violent, non-judicial executions in the form of lynchings. The 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to notice of what crime they are alleged to have committed and an opportunity to defend those allegations before they are deprived of their liberty or, more importantly, their life.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice pays tribute to those who were deprived their 14th Amendment rights and to the suffering caused by lynchings which occurred frequently throughout the South. According to the EJI report, which was compiled by a small group of lawyers and documented over 4,000 lynchings between the Civil War and WWII, lynchings were often conducted most minor perceived infractions: walking behind a white woman, attempting to quit a job, organizing sharecroppers, and even reprimanding children for throwing rocks (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/25/us/lynching-memorial-alabama.html).
The Legacy Museum, built on the site where enslaved black people were imprisoned, traced the roots of inequality and racism through slavery, lynching, racial segregation and attempted to show connections to perceived implicit biases present in the modern justice system.
Speakers came from all over the country to attempt to address criminal justice reform in the United States, including Ray Hinton, who spent 30 years on death row for a crime he did not commit.
For more information on civil rights and the history of United States laws, contact Parton & Associates, PLLC.
This weekend, only because I’m a nerd, I decided to watch one of my favorite TED talks (again). In 2012, Civil Rights Advocate Bryan Stevenson delivered an impactful lecture on America’s criminal justice system. If you ever have the time, I suggest you give it a watch.
I had the unique pleasure of hearing Bryan speak at a book signing here in Charlotte and one quote that always stuck out to me was how not only race, but money and the lack thereof shapes outcomes. “We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent. Wealth, not culpability, shapes outcomes; and yet, we seem to be very comfortable.”
In 2016, as an example, 18% of inmates in Mecklenburg County were imprisoned for failure to pay fines or court costs. Those who could not afford bail stayed in jail for an average of 4 days. That’s 4 days of incarceration before a person is convicted or even has a substantive court date. Research has shown that one’s ability to pay does not reduce the chances for failure to appear or risk to commit another crime – so the “pay or stay” model doesn’t seem to advance a worthy objective.
The dollars don’t make sense either. In 2014, Mecklenburg County spent $113 million dollars on its local jail, roughly $166 dollars a day per inmate.
Many County leaders are not comfortable with wealth shaping judicial outcomes, and are attempting to shift how we look at bail and other forms of monetary punishment. In October, Mecklenburg County was awarded a $2 million-dollar grant aimed at reducing its incarcerated population. The grant came from the John D and Catherin T, MacArthur Foundation, with the goal of reducing our jail population by 13%.
To achieve its reduction goal, the County looking to implement the following programs:
For more information on disparities in the justice system and County policies, contact Parton & Associates, PLLC.
Drafted by Micheal L. Littlejohn, Edited by Corey V. Parton
Earlier this week, Mecklenburg County became the latest victim of a ransomware attack that resulted in a shutdown of the County’s IT systems. The Hackers demanded $23,000 in Bitcoin in exchange for an encryption key that would release the files. The County was left with the choice of either paying the ransom and restoring their usual systems, or resorting to old fashioned paper systems. As the deadline passed to meet the Hacker’s demands, Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio announced she will not pay criminals and that the County would rebuild its system applications and restore files and data from backups. Some of Parton & Associates Clients may be impacted by interruptions in the following County services:
Criminal Justice Services
Child Support Enforcement (CSE)
Community Support Services
Mecklenburg County has been providing updates on their website at the following link: http://bit.ly/2BY05fK
Drafted by Attorneys Micheal L. Littlejohn & Corey V. Parton
In anticipation of an increased number of impaired drivers this weekend, Mecklenburg County's "ABC" Board is launching Operation Safe Streets, which is set to begin Wednesday. Operation Safe Streets is a program designed to deter drinkers from operating a motor vehicle by assisting them in finding an alternative ride home. Basically, Officers hang out in parking lots of popular outing spots and observe patrons for any signs of intoxication as they enter their vehicle. Instead of making arrests or writing tickets, Officers will ask potential drivers to admit to intoxication and then help them to secure a ride home. The Board has partnered with three local taxi companies to provide ride vouchers to potential intoxicated drivers who cannot afford a taxi.
The Attorneys and Staff at Parton & Associates, PLLC, wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy Thanksgiving!
Drafted by Micheal L. Littlejohn & Corey V. Parton
Mecklenburg County has recently introduced a pilot program to help reduce the time residents spend at the courthouse for traffic matters by allowing residents with speeding tickets to go online to reduce their tickets.
Here are some of the basics:
Every situation is different, which is why it important to carefully consider each client's individual driving needs and to conduct a careful analysis of their driving record before determining what reduction to seek or agree to.
For more information on ticket reductions, license suspensions, and insurance points, contact Parton & Associates, PLLC.
Drafted by Attorney Micheal L. Littlejohn & Corey V. Parton
Earlier this week, a twenty-five year old Math teacher at Rocky Mount Preparatory School was accused of having sexual contact with three underage students (http://bit.ly/2tjMeLR). Students and teachers were interviewed before a warrant for Erin McAuliffe was issued. McAuliffe was later arrested. McAuliffe was fired on May 4th and had her first appearance in court yesterday to face the allegations brought against her.
When serious misconduct in connection with a school, and teachers or students suddenly transition to suspects and witnesses, the question of what rights those individuals have have often arises and can be critical.
The 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution protects against unreasonable search and seizure. This has been interpreted by the courts to protect against unreasonable search and seizure by government officials such as police officers, FBI agents, and other governmental agencies. However, the 4th Amendment does not protect against a private citizen’s unreasonable search and seizure of other private citizens.
So is a teacher a State actor or private citizen? Teachers are considered State actors under the law. Public school officials are representatives of the State according to New Jersey v. T.L.O. However, unlike police or other law government actors, teachers and school officials do not need a warrant to search a student’s property. Getting a warrant can take time, which has been deemed by the courts to be unsuitable for the school environment when safety is a primary concern. A search may be conducted when there are reasonable grounds that evidence will be found showing a student’s violation of the law or school rules according to New Jersey v. T.L.O. The search must be conducted reasonably especially in light of the age and sex of the student. The search must not be excessively intrusive based on those factors. See New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325, 332 (1985).
For example, a strip-search of a student has been found highly intrusive. A fairly recent Supreme Court case reviewed facts in which a thirteen-year-old student was asked to remove clothing and “shake out” her underwear while school officials looked for prescription-strength ibuprofen. The student’s attorney argued that the search was very intrusive on a young, female student when the only allegation was that she might have prescription-strength ibuprofen. High Court Weighs School Strip Search Arguments, ABC News. http://abcn.ws/2rZ0Nqf
Each case depends on the individual facts and surrounding circumstances. The bottom line is that public school officials are state actors who have to abide by a certain standard when subjecting an accused individual to a search or seizure, otherwise they may risk violating the 4th Amendment.
For more information on Constitutional rights, contact Parton & Associates, PLLC.
Drafted by Megan S. White, Attorney-at-Law
The Charlotte Observer reported that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD), the largest police department in North Carolina, is implementing a new program to help solve current and cold cases. You may be thinking new DNA testing or interrogation methods but you would be wrong. The CMPD is leaving it to the cards, literally. CMPD is printing the faces of murder victims onto playing cards that will be handed out to prisoners in Mecklenburg County.
CMPD hopes that by placing pictures of murder victims onto decks of cards, prisoners will contact Crime Stoppers with information. With approximately 600 open homicides in the city of Charlotte, the first set features 26 victims on the deck of cards. Inmates will also be compensated for passing on a successful tip to Crime Stoppers.
How will this help solve crimes in Charlotte? It is extremely possible that prisoners may take advantage of this newly implemented program. It is common for what are called “jailhouse snitches” to falsely claim to know something about a case in exchange for receiving less time in jail. Not only is this a huge waste of time for investigators but it also reopens the old wounds of the victim’s family. It is also common for “jailhouse snitches” to seek out information from other inmates at the direction of the police which violates the United States Constitution. In hopes of receiving less jail time and potentially money for themselves or family, false tips may be given to Crime Stoppers as a result of this practice. Two men in Southern California were living like “kings” because they worked as jailhouse snitches raking in $335,000 between the two of them in four years. These snitches became so well paid; California passed a state bill to correct the payment of informants. Likewise, these men dodged the death penalty by informing the police of statements made by inmates. Tony Saavedra, 2 Jailhouse Snitches, who were paid $335,000 over Four Years, Spark New Legislation, The Orange County Register (May 4, 2017, 2:23pm), http://bit.ly/2qaBpwN .
Is this a violation of the Sixth Amendment? Under the United States Constitution, a criminal defendant has the right to assistance by an attorney. The right to an attorney is critical in nearly every phase of the criminal process. In some form, placing a deck of “victim cards” into prisons could loosely be considered entrapment. Without an attorney present, prisoners could be questioned concerning certain local cases. Other inmates could also elicit criminal statements at the direction of the police. This is dangerous in preserving individuals constitutional right to an attorney. Likewise, this degrades the criminal justice system. One article discussing this issue explains that this practice “breaks down the integrity of the criminal justice system in three key ways: innocent people go to prison, justice for victims is delayed and public trust in the criminal justice system is eroded.” Tony Saavedra, 2 Jailhouse Snitches, who were paid $335,000 over Four Years, Spark New Legislation, The Orange County Register (May 4, 2017, 2:23pm), http://bit.ly/2qaBpwN .
Finally, who would want to use this deck of cards? These are photos of murder victims. I doubt that many prisoners will be eager to use these cards. Time will tell as to whether this new program can help solve any crimes. The likelihood of the right person getting ahold of a card they have some knowledge on would be rare. CMPD hopes that “street knowledge” will come to light through a deck of cards. CMPD had a clearance rate of 66% in 2016. A clearance rate is the ability of a police department to solve a homicide. Normally, this is established by arresting someone for the crime. While the CMPD average is about 1% higher than the national average, it still makes you wonder how much a deck of cards can help solve a crime.
While it is certainly sad that these cases have continued to be unsolved, it is unclear as to what role these cards will play with leads and tips. Additionally it is yet to be determined how accurate these tips will be. Unfortunately, it may create more confusion and harm to the families of these victims. At this time, only one deck of cards has been printed.
Drafted by Megan S. White, Attorney-at-Law
The Charlotte Observer article may be found at: http://bit.ly/2qaF3qi
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The law applies differently in each situation. Nothing on this page should be construed as or be relied upon as legal advice.