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News Roundup – North Carolina Criminal Law

By admin Dec2,2023

A Wisconsin official who posted a photo of his marked ballot on Facebook during the April 2022 election had felony charges against him dropped Monday. Paul Buzzell, a member of a local school board, faced maximum penalties of 3.5 years behind bars and $10,000 in fines and would have been barred from holding elected office if convicted. Ozaukee County Judge Paul Malloy dismissed the charges against Buzzell, expressing that a state law prohibiting voters from showing their marked ballots to anyone else is in violation of the constitutional right to freedom of speech.

According to this AP article, there has been movement in other states in favor of allowing “ballot selfies.” In New Hampshire, a federal judge held that a state law barring an individual’s right to publish their ballot violated the First Amendment. Legislators in Michigan changed state law in 2019 to make ballot selfies legal. The Wisconsin Senate passed a bill in 2020 to legalize ballot selfies, but the proposal died in the state Assembly.

Keep reading for more criminal law news.

Speaking of ballots, an Iowa woman was recently convicted in ballot stuffing scheme. On Tuesday, Kim Taylor was found guilty of 26 counts of providing false information in registering and voting, three counts of fraudulent registration and 23 counts of fraudulent voting. Prosecutors said Taylor approached numerous voters of Vietnamese heritage with limited English comprehension and filled out and signed election forms and ballots on behalf of them and their English-speaking children. The scheme was reportedly designed to help her husband in an unsuccessful race for a Republican nomination to run for Congress in 2020. She remains free pending sentencing but faces up to five years in prison on each charge. Read more on the story here.

New North Carolina criminal laws in effect. Today is December 1, which marks the effective date of many criminal laws enacted during this legislative session. Some highlights include increased punishment for rioting and looting, a new misdemeanor domestic violence offense, a new offense for street takeovers, several changes to laws related to juvenile delinquency, increased fines for drug trafficking, and new offenses for death by distribution of certain of controlled substances. The School of Government’s “2023 Legislation Affecting Criminal Law and Procedure” summary document will be available in the coming weeks.

And speaking of lawmaking, a former New Hampshire lawmaker who kept his seat for a year after moving out of his district was charged with multiple crimes related to his change of address, in violation of a New Hampshire law requiring lawmakers to live in the district they represent. Troy Merner won a fourth term representing Lancaster, NH in the House in 2022, around the same time he moved to Carroll, NH. The AP reports that Merner was charged with wrongful voting, a class B felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and a permanent loss of voting privileges. He was also charged with three misdemeanors: theft by deception, unsworn falsification, and tampering with public records.

Philadelphia activist sentenced to a year in prison. Well-known Philadelphia activist Anthony Smith was sentenced to prison for helping overturn a police car during the 2020 George Floyd protests. US News reports that Smith was sentenced Tuesday following a guilty plea in June to a federal charge of obstructing law enforcement during a civil disorder, which included aiding and abetting an arson. Smith admitted to having helped others flip a vacant Philadelphia police car outside City Hall during the protests. After someone fired a road flare into the vehicle, sending it up in flames, Smith threw a piece of paper into the blaze. He was sentenced to a year and a day in prison and two years of probation.

Federal hate crime charges filed in the absence of a state law. Two men in South Carolina have been indicted on federal hate crime charges in connection with targeted robberies. The two men are accused of targeting victims they identified as Mexican or Hispanic, forcibly taking cash, cellphones, and other property after following shoppers to their homes and holding them at gunpoint. According to this AP article, South Carolina and Wyoming are the only two states in the country without laws that allow harsher punishments for violent hate crimes.

Opening statements for the Young Thug trial began Monday. Rapper Young Thug, whose given name is Jeffery Williams, was charged last year with leading a criminal enterprise responsible for a multitude of offenses. He is standing trial with five of the others indicted with him. Prosecutors have made clear that they intend to use rap lyrics from songs by the defendants to help make their case. While this tactic has sparked controversy, Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Ural Glanville has conditionally allowed certain lyrics as long as prosecutors can show that the lyrics are linked to the crimes alleged in the indictment. Read more about the opening statements here.

Join our faculty! The UNC School of Government has two faculty job openings. One is a tenure track position, focusing on decedents’ estates, trusts, and special proceedings. The other is for a one-year appointment to work in civil procedure, civil trials, contested hearings, and the fair administration of justice in civil cases. More information can be found in this blog post.

By admin

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