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Archive for March, 2012

Self Initiated Warrants in North Carolina

Monday, March 26th, 2012

North Carolina General Statute Section § 15A-304 provides that: A judicial official may issue a warrant for arrest only when he is supplied with sufficient information, supported by oath or affirmation, to make an independent judgment that there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that the person to be arrested committed it. The information must be shown by one or more of the following: Affidavit;  Oral testimony under oath or affirmation before the issuing official, etc.

Just because someone swears out a warrant against a person does not mean the person is guilty. In each of the United States, everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Criminal charges, even if dismissed in court, can result in criminal records which will affect the accused for the rest of their life. Even if the criminal records are expunged, it is possible that records may still exist of the charges.

Recently, the Wilmington Star News (the main newspaper in New Hanover County, NC) ran a story on North Carolina’s laws on self initiated warrants.  The story commented on several high profile cases including the recent warrant that Belville Mayor Jack Batson took out on Belville Commissioner Joe Breault for communicating threats and cyberstalking. Commissioner Breault had allegedly written an email to Mayer Batson in which he said that if he got out of hand again, “you may likely find your words rammed back down your throat and, along with your new teeth, pulled out of your rectum!”  The article said Batson indicated that he felt compelled to swear out a warrant against Breault since the threats were escalating, but Breault the agreed that the system with self initiated warrants in North Carolina is abused. He said specifically that he has examples of instances where young people threaten to have their lovers arrested if they misbehave.

In 2003, a Kure Beach resident swore out a warrant against actor Ben Affleck for communicating threats.  The warrant was subsequently dismissed.  The District Attorney at the time said that the case was “a very good example of why people shouldn’t be able to take out a warrant without any kind of police investigation.”

The Star News article discussed the processes in other states including Georgia where individuals requesting a warrant must go before a magistrate who holds a hearing where both the accuser and accused are given a chance to present evidence before the judicial officer makes a decision. What followed was the standard three-step process that unfolds thousands of times each year in magistrates’ offices across North Carolina: Batson filled out a one-page form, listing his complaint. He put his hand on a Bible, swearing his claims were true. And then, the magistrate issued a warrant for the commissioner’s arrest.

In the vast majority of other states, there are other professionals involved in the criminal justice system investigating criminal complaints before a warrant is issued.  The Star news quoted Jeffrey Welty, Assistant Professor at the UNC School of Government who has said:  It’s a distinctive feature of North Carolina law. . . . I haven’t surveyed all 50 states, but if we’re not unique, we’re pretty close.

New Hanover County Courthouse in North Carolina Shut Down Because of Bedbugs!

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

The New Hanover County Courthouse located in Wilmington, NC is closed today, Thursday March 8, 2012, because of an infestation of bed bugs! Courthouse personnel said they noticed some bed bugs in the building and notified the New Hanover County division of Property Management.

Bed bugs have been a human parasite for thousands of years. In the 1940s, bedbugs were mostly eradicated in the developed world.  However, since the mid1990’s, bedbugs have increased in numbers Infestation of human habitats has been increasing, and bed bug bites and the effects thereof have been increasing as well.

An exterminator is scheduled to try to kill all of the pests today by fumigating the building .  We have learned that other facilities will be used for court business with urgency.  Emergency protective orders and civil filings will be handled at the Juvenile Clerk’s Office located at 133 North Fourth Street, Superior Court will be relocated to the Old Courthouse located next door to the main courthouse at 24 North Third Street, and warrants can be sworn out at the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office on Blue Clay Road.  Jerome Fennell, Director of NHC Property Management, said that “County staff are working closely with exterminators to ensure the facility will be ready for normal operations on Friday.” Whether they will be successful remains to be seen.  Samantha Dooies, assistant to District Attorney Ben David said that blood-sucking bed bugs can be very difficult to eradicate.

An announcement is expected later today about the success of the eradication efforts.  The staff and attorneys at Collins Law Firm certainly hope that those working on the problem are thorough and successful!  The courthouse is full of hardworking people who already have a hard enough time getting all their responsibilities fulfilled, and they need a clean and safe workplace, and they don’t need further delays.  Good luck and successful exterminating to everyone working on the problem!