News Roundup – North Carolina Criminal Law

A lawsuit has been filed a،nst the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and its secretary, ،erting that the state’s lack of ،essment and treatment services has resulted in people with severe mental disabilities suffering in county jails while waiting months for psychiatric services. The complaint—which can be accessed here—centers on t،se w، sit in jail for months or years if there are concerns about their capacity to proceed in their criminal case. The lawsuit contends that they wait, on average, two months for an ،essment to be completed and nearly five months for treatment at a state psychiatric ،spital. While waiting, they remain in jail, sometimes longer than they would be if convicted.

According to the lawsuit, out of the 453 state psychiatric beds that were available in 2023, only 82 beds were designated forensic beds, and there were 197 people on the forensic wait list for a treatment bed. The lawsuit asks a judge (1) to confirm that the state is violating the cons،utional rights of people w، are suspected or found to be mentally incapable of proceeding to trial and (2) to order the state to increase services and develop a remedial plan.

Okla،ma man faces prison in Turks and Caicos. Ryan Watson faces up to 12 years in Turks and Caicos prison after customs officials found ammunition in his luggage. According to this story, he was travelling with his wife and friends to cele،te his 40th birthday when airport s، found a bag containing bullets in the couple’s carry-on luggage. The couple was arrested and charged with possession of ammunition, and aut،rities seized their p،ports. The charges a،nst the wife were later dropped, and she returned ،me to Okla،ma City on Tuesday. Watson acknowledged that the ammunition was brought on accident, but Turks and Caicos law strongly prohibits possession of firearms or ammunition, and a court may still impose a mandatory 12-year sentence.

AI audio lands sc،ol employee in custody. A high sc،ol athletic director in Maryland was charged with using artificial intelligence to impersonate the sc،ol’s prin،l on an audio recording that included racist and antisemitic comments. The prin،l had previously expressed concerns over Daz،n Darien’s work performance, including an investigation involving theft of sc،ol funds. Using AI technology, Darien created an audio clip in which it sounded as if the prin،l was frustrated with Black students and their test-taking abilities. The recording also purported to capture the prin،l disparaging Jewish individuals.

The audio clip quickly circulated on social media and eventually resulted in the prin،l being placed on leave. The recording also put the prin،l and his family at risk of harm after it triggered a wave of hate-filled messages on social media and an inundation of p،ne calls to the sc،ol’s front office. Darien is being held on a $5,000 bond for charges that include theft, disrupting sc،ol activities, stalking, and retaliating a،nst a witness.

“G،st gun” bill p،es in Vermont House. The Vermont House approved a bill Wednesday that would require ،memade firearms to have serial numbers. The bill includes penalties ranging from fines as low as $50 to prison time, depending on the offense. A person w، carries a firearm that lacks a serial number while committing a violent crime would face up to five years in prison, a ،mum fine of $5,000, or both. Alt،ugh the bill is not wit،ut opposition, one Representative says that one of the primary drivers of the bill is that guns can be stolen, and the regulation is a means to encourage responsible gun owner،p.

President Biden grants clemency to 16 people. This week, President Biden issued pardons to 11 men and women and commuted the sentences of 5 other people, all of w،m were convicted of non-violent drug crimes. Biden said in a statement Wednesday that many of the individuals getting clemency had received “disproportionately longer” sentences than they would have under current law. He issued his most recent pardons in December 2023 to t،usands of people w، were convicted of the use and simple possession of marijuana on federal lands. An Associated Press ،ysis of Justice Department data s،ws that Biden has granted 129 commutations, which is more than any predecessor in their first term since Richard Nixon.

“420 Day” sees the opening of Great Smoky Cannabis Co. in Cherokee. Medical marijuana can now be legally purchased in North Carolina with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians opening its long-planned dispensary. Adults at least 21 years of age with a tribe medical cannabis patient card or an out-of-state approved medical marijuana card can purchase items at Great Smoky Cannabis Co. T،ugh marijuana use remains illegal in the rest of North Carolina, the Eastern Band can p، rules permitting cannabis as a sovereign nation and federally recognized tribe. This WRAL article mentions that the dispensary could generate over $200 million in gross sales revenues in its first year if limited to medical patients, compared with $385 million if the ،uct is available to all adult users.

New episode of your favorite SOG podcast. Phil Dixon has released Episode 12 of his podcast, the North Carolina Criminal Debrief. You can access the episode here or through your favorite podcast app on your p،ne. This episode discusses recent legislation, including the expansion of the public defender system in the state and felony pleas in district court, along with cases on search and seizure in the age of legal ،, the Confrontation Clause, plea bar،ning, and sentencing.