Monday, February 26, 2018


Image result for roundabout

Raleigh is about to put several roundabouts on Hillsborough Street according to the article below.  As a result, it is a good time to review how to use a roundabout.

Among the changes coming with the city’s latest renewal project along Hillsborough Street will be three new roundabouts at intersections that now have traffic lights.

And this weekend the traffic lights are coming down.

The city will close several blocks of Hillsborough Street at the western end of N.C. State University’s campus starting at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23, so it can take down four sets of traffic signals and create the new roundabout traffic pattern. The street is expected to remain closed until 6 a.m. Monday, Feb. 26, though it could reopen earlier, said project manager Richard Dickie.

The new roundabouts will be constructed in the coming weeks at Brooks Avenue, Dixie Trail/Friendly Drive and Shepherd/Rosemary streets, though drivers will begin using the roundabout pattern now. Traffic engineers say roundabouts slow traffic down while keeping it moving and are safer than traditional intersections.

The traffic light at Dan Allen Drive, an entrance to the NCSU campus, is also coming down. Traffic from westbound Hillsborough will have a turn lane to make left turns into Dan Allen, while all traffic exiting Dan Allen will turn right onto eastbound Hillsborough. Dan Allen drivers wishing to go westbound on Hillsborough will be directed to use the roundabout at Brooks Avenue to turn around.

The roundabouts are part of a $17.5 million reconstruction project that will include buried utility lines and new sidewalks, bike lanes, medians and street lights. The weekend closure will allow workers to move traffic to the outside lanes and put barriers in place so they can build the medians and roundabouts, Dickie said.

“This marks the next step in the evolution of Hillsborough Street,” he said. “We’ve finished the two sides, the sidewalks are there and all the underground improvements. We’re approaching the finish line.”

Through traffic on Hillsborough will be directed on a detour that includes Brooks Avenue, Wade Avenue and Faircloth Street. Restaurants, stores and other businesses along the street will remain open during construction.

The city expects to complete the Hillsborough Street Renewal Project in May. For more information, go to

Quick List of things to Remember:
  1. Slow down.
  2. Look and plan ahead.
  3. Pedestrians go first. When entering or exiting a roundabout, yield to pedestrians at the crosswalk.
  4. Look to the left, yield to all traffic in the roundabout, find a safe gap, and then go.
  5. Don't pass vehicles in a roundabout.
  6. Signal.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


Image result for is poverty a crime

Everyday, I deal with clients who are driving with a revoked license.  In most of these cases, their license is revoked because they did not go to court for a simple traffic ticket or because they could not afford to pay the court costs and fine for their ticket.  In addition, the most common reason for not going to court is because they had to work or because they could not afford the court costs and fine anyway so they did not bother to go to court.  This somewhat simple problem then snowballs and becomes a larger problem for the client when they continue to drive and get multiple Driving While License Revoked citations.  All because they cannot afford what has become an outrageous court costs and fine.

When I first started representing clients in traffic court, the court costs was $75.  It is now $188 or $238 for a non moving violation.  For a single parent or someone living paycheck to paycheck, this is enough to wreck your bank account and take food off your table.  The legislature's response to this issue is, "don't break the law".  They say this while they drive around with legislative license plates on their cars.  They know that no officer will pull them over for a minor traffic offense with that license plate on their car.

Below is a great article written by Peter Edleman on the issue

In the United States, a system of modern peonage – essentially, a government-run loan shark operation – has been going on for years. Beginning in the 1990s, the country adopted a set of criminal justice strategies that punish poor people for their poverty. Right now in America, 10 million people, representing two-thirds of all current and former offenders in the country, owe governments a total of $50bn in accumulated fines, fees and other impositions.

The problem of “high fines and misdemeanors” exists across many parts of the country: throughout much of the south; in states ranging from Washington to Oklahoma to Colorado; and of course in Ferguson, Missouri, where, in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown, revelations about the systematic criminalization of the city’s poor black residents brought these issues to national attention.

As a result, poor people lose their liberty and often lose their jobs, are frequently barred from a host of public benefits, may lose custody of their children, and may even lose their right to vote. Immigrants, even some with green cards, can be subject to deportation. Once incarcerated, impoverished inmates with no access to paid work are often charged for their room and board. Many debtors will carry debts to their deaths, hounded by bill collectors and new prosecutions.

Mass incarceration, which has disproportionately victimized people of color from its beginning in the 1970s, set the scene for this criminalization of poverty. But to understand America’s new impulse to make being poor a crime, one has to follow the trail of tax cuts that began in the Reagan era, which created revenue gaps all over the country.

The anti-tax lobby told voters they would get something for nothing: the state or municipality would tighten its belt a little, it would collect big money from low-level offenders, and everything would be fine.

Deep budget cuts ensued, and the onus of paying for our justice system – from courts to law enforcement agencies and even other arms of government – began to shift to the “users” of the courts, including those least equipped to pay.

Exorbitant fines and fees designed to make up for revenue shortfalls are now a staple throughout most of the country. Meanwhile, white-collar criminals get slaps on the wrist for financial crimes that ruin millions of lives. Though wealthy scofflaws owe a cumulative $450bn in back taxes, fines and fees from the justice system hit lower-income people – especially people of color – the hardest.

“Broken windows” law enforcement policy – the idea that mass arrests for minor offenses promote community order – aided and abetted this new criminalization of poverty, making the police complicit in the victimization of the poor. Community policing turned into community fleecing. Enforcing “quality of life” rules was touted as a way to achieve civic tranquility and prevent more serious crime. What it actually did was fill jails with poor people, especially because those arrested could not pay for bail.

Budget cuts and the new criminalization have inflicted other cruelties as well. Under “chronic nuisance” ordinances created by underfunded police departments, women in some poor communities can be evicted for calling 911 too often to seek protection from domestic abuse.

Public school children, particularly in poor communities of color, are arrested and sent to juvenile and even adult courts for behavior that not long ago was handled with a reprimand. The use of law enforcement both to criminalize homelessness and to drive the homeless entirely out of cities is increasing, as municipalities enact ever more punitive measures due to shortages of funds for housing and other services.

In addition, low-income people are deterred from seeking public benefits by threats of sanctions for made-up allegations of benefits fraud. As elected officials have moved to the right, laws designed to keep people from seeking assistance have grown more common. Budget cuts have also led to the further deterioration of mental health and addiction treatment services, making the police the first responders and jails and prisons the de facto mental hospitals, again with a special impact on minorities and low-income people.

Racism is America’s original sin, and it is present in all of these areas of criminalization, whether through out-and-out discrimination, structural and institutional racism, or implicit bias. Joined together, poverty and racism have created a toxic mixture that mocks our democratic rhetoric of equal opportunity and equal protection under the law.

A movement to fight back is showing signs of developing. Organizers and some public officials are attacking mass incarceration, lawyers are challenging the constitutionality of debtors’ prisons and money bail, judicial leaders are calling for fair fines and fees, policy advocates are seeking repeal of destructive laws, more judges and local officials are applying the law justly, and journalists are covering all of it.

The Obama administration’s Department of Justice stepped into the fray on a number of fronts. Ferguson was a spark that turned isolated instances of activism into a national conversation and produced numerous examples of partnerships between advocates and decision-makers.

Now we must turn all of that into a movement. The ultimate goal, of course, is the end of poverty itself. But as we pursue that goal, we must get rid of the laws and practices that unjustly incarcerate and otherwise damage the lives of millions who can’t fight back. We must fight mass incarceration and criminalization of poverty in every place where they exist, and fight poverty, too.

We must organize – in neighborhoods and communities, in cities and states, and nationally. And we must empower people to advocate for themselves as the most fundamental tool for change.

  • Copyright © 2017 by Peter Edelman. This excerpt originally appeared in Not a Crime to Be Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America by Peter Edelman, published by The New Press. Reprinted here with permission.

  • Peter Edelman is the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law and Public Policy at Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches constitutional law and poverty law and is faculty director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality


Monday, February 5, 2018


Image result for flipping officer bird

Mark May, a self-employed carpet cleaner from rural western Indiana, was driving his car through the town of Terre Haute on Aug. 17 when he spotted an Indiana State Police patrol car zooming up from behind.

As May slowed at an intersection, the police vehicle cut in front of him — too aggressively, May thought, according to his federal lawsuit. If May had pulled that maneuver in front of a police officer, he would have earned a ticket, he believed. May correctly guessed that the trooper was pulling ahead to stop another motorist, and as he passed the patrol car, he signaled his displeasure.

He waved a middle-finger in the trooper’s direction.

The universal single-digit gesture of contempt is now the center of a federal lawsuit May filed last week against the man behind the patrol car’s wheel, Indiana State Police Master Trooper Matt Ames. According to the legal complaint, after seeing May’s middle-finger, Ames went after the driver, issuing him a ticket for “provocation.”

But May’s middle finger is his constitutional right, his attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union argue.

“While perhaps ill advised, Mr. May’s gesture, which in no way interfered with the Master Trooper’s lawful activities, was fully protected by the First Amendment,” the complaint states. “The traffic stop was unreasonable under the circumstances and was made without probable cause.”

An Indiana State Police public information officer did not immediately return an email for comment on the lawsuit.

May’s situation, however, is not unique. The same month May was pulled over in Indiana, the ACLU of Louisiana complained to the Louisiana State Police after an officer from the agency pulled over and ticketed a finger-flashing driver on the Bayou State’s Interstate 20. A local prosecutor declined to enforce the ticket, and a State Police spokesman later told the Associated Press the agency “has tremendous respect for the First Amendment even when the citizens we serve choose to be vulgar and disrespectful.”

Vulgar as it is, there are lots of vulgar people. On any given day, no doubt, one or more of them is giving the finger to an officer. And the gesture — which actually dates back to the ancient Greeks — has already been the subject of previous litigation in the U.S. courts.

In 2006, a St. Johnsville, N.Y., man named John Swartz was riding in his car with his wife when he spotted some police officers using a radar gun at an intersection. Swartz flashed his finger, and he was later arrested for disorderly conduct.

The charges were later dropped, but Swartz sued the officers for violating his civil rights. The case worked its way to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. In 2012, the court ruled for Swartz, stating the “ancient gesture of insult is not the basis for a reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation or impending criminal activity.”

According to May’s lawsuit filed in the Southern District of Indiana, after the gesture, Ames pursued May in his patrol car, turning on his flashing lights to signal a stop. May pulled into a parking lot. Ames followed.

“The Master Trooper exited his car and told Mr. May that it was illegal to ‘give the finger’ to a law enforcement officer,” the complaint says. “The Master Trooper was quite angry and loud and Mr. May was concerned about the Master Trooper’s demeanor.”

Ames issued May a ticket for “provocation.” He also issued a warning ticket to May for not using his turn signal as he entered the lot.

The “provocation” offense, according to the Indiana Criminal Code, is issued when a person “recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally engages in conduct that is likely to provoke a reasonable person to commit battery” and is punishable with a $500 fine, the Indianapolis Star reported. May fought the ticket at a trial in  Terre Haute City Court. “At the trial . . . Master Trooper Ames admitted that the sole reason he stopped Mr. May was because of his gesture,” the lawsuit states.

May was convicted.

But under Indiana law, the defendant had the opportunity for a fresh review with the Vigo County Superior Court. The higher court sided with May, tossing out the conviction. The county prosecutor did not refile the case. The charges were dismissed with prejudice.

Although May won his legal battle in the criminal court, the court appearances cost him two days of work, the lawsuit alleges. He’s suing for unspecified damages.

“Mark May’s gesture to Master Trooper Ames was expressive conduct that was fully protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” his lawsuit says. “Master Trooper Ames had no grounds whatsoever to initiate the stop of Mr. May and the traffic stop represents a seizure implicating the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

Thank you to the Washington Post for the article

Friday, February 2, 2018


Image result for police cell phone

Interesting post on whether a police officer has probable cause to search your cell phone if you are placed under arrest.  Thank you to the NC SOG for the article.

The question in the title of this post is one that I’ve been asked lots of times in different factual contexts. The basic question is, given that most people have cell phones, and that people tend to use their phones to document and to communicate about just about everything that they do, is it reasonable to believe that a person who has committed a crime has evidence of that crime on his or her phone?

I don’t see that as categorically reasonable. For example, I doubt that most shoplifters document their shoplifting on their phones, so absent some indication to the contrary, evidence that a person acting alone shoplifted an item doesn’t strike me as providing probable cause to search the person’s phone. But in many circumstances, there will be probable cause to search a suspect’s phone, whether with a warrant or pursuant to an exception to the warrant requirement. That’s particularly likely where a crime is committed by a group (because the coconspirators may have communicated with one another via text message), or involves a transaction (because the participants may have arranged the transaction using their phones).

Courts across the country don’t see eye to eye on this, with some wanting specific evidence of a nexus between the crime and the phone before finding probable cause, and others being willing to find probable cause based mainly on the type of offense at issue. Two recent cases illustrate the different approaches courts may take.

In United States v. Griffith, 867 F.3d 1265 (D.C. Cir. 2017), police obtained a warrant to search the defendant’s home for evidence of a gang-related homicide committed more than a year earlier. The officers were interested mainly in the defendant’s digital devices. The application stated that “gang . . . members involved in criminal activity maintain regular contact with each other . . . and share intelligence about their activities through cell phones and other electronic communication devices.” What they actually found was a firearm, which the defendant, as a convicted felon, could not lawfully possess. The defendant moved to suppress, arguing that there was no showing that he owned a cell phone, no showing that a cell phone would be in the residence, and no showing that any phone would contain pertinent evidence.

That argument didn’t persuade the trial court but it prevailed on appeal. First, the appellate court acknowledged that most Americans own cell phones, but said that there was no evidence that the defendant, who had recently been in jail for months on unrelated charges, did so. The court was “aware of no case . . . in which police obtained authorization to search a suspect’s home for a cell phone without any particularized information that he owned one.” Second, even if the defendant owned a phone, it would not necessarily be at the residence, especially if the defendant were not present. And third, the likelihood that the defendant’s phone would contain evidence of the murder was not high. Officers “might often fairly infer that a suspect’s phone contains evidence of recent criminal activity . . . perhaps especially when, as here, multiple perpetrators may have coordinated the crime.” But the shooting took place a year earlier, and the defendant might have changed phones in the interim. Even if not, he had “ample opportunity” and “every incentive” to delete incriminating evidence from his phone. Summing up, the court stated:

In view of the limited likelihood that any cell phone discovered in the apartment would contain incriminating evidence of [the defendant’s] suspected crime, the government’s argument in favor of probable cause essentially falls back on our accepting the following proposition: because nearly everyone now carries a cell phone, and because a phone frequently contains all sorts of information about the owner’s daily activities, a person’s suspected involvement in a crime ordinarily justifies searching her home for any cell phones, regardless of whether there is any indication that she in fact owns one. Finding the existence of probable cause in this case, therefore, would verge on authorizing a search of a person’s home almost anytime there is probable cause to suspect her of a crime. We cannot accept that proposition.

In contrast, consider State v. Moats, 168 A.3d 952 (Md. Ct. App. 2017). Officers determined that the defendant had provided drugs to friends and suspected that he  participated in a sexual assault against one of the friends. An officer obtained a warrant to search the defendant’s cell phone. The affidavit stated in part that in the officer’s experience, “individuals who participate in such crimes communicate via cellular telephones, via text messages, calls, e-mails etc.” A search of the phone resulted in the discovery of child pornography, and the defendant moved to suppress, contending that there was an insufficient “nexus” between the suspected crimes and the phone. That argument was unsuccessful at trial and again on appeal:

Petitioner points out that the warrant affidavit was devoid of specific facts linking the crimes and the cell phone. That much is so, but such direct evidence has never been required by the Fourth Amendment. . . . The information [the officer] set forth in the warrant affidavit supports a reasonable inference that Petitioner’s cell phone contained evidence of his connection to the drug-related charges and sexual assault investigation. . . . [S]ome deference also is to be given to [the officer’s] knowledge gained through his training and experience that persons use cell phones to communicate and that evidence of the crimes being investigated, and any related crimes, would be found on Petitioner’s cell phone. . . . This was not an unreasonable inference to draw, considering not only the prevalence of cell phones but also the degree of detail of one’s daily life that is often contained in a cell phone. . . . The nature of the criminal activity of which Petitioner was suspected supported a common-sense conclusion that he might have incriminating evidence on his cell phone. . . . By its description, the crime of drug distribution involves at least two participants—the supplier and the consumer. . . . Other crimes that by definition do not require more than one perpetrator may nevertheless involve other individuals depending on the individual facts and circumstances of the crime. Any one of these examples could permit a reasonable inference that digital communications exist on the cell phones of any one of the participants. . . . It is likewise not unusual that persons committing a sexual assault, or an accomplice witnessing the crime, document the crime on their cell phones.