State passes ‘Death by Distribution’ law

Gov. Roy Cooper signed the Death by Distribution Act into law earlier this month, making it easier for prosecutors to charge drug dealers with second-degree murder for selling someone a lethal dose. 

Bail bond industry a strong lobby in Raleigh

With widespread reports of abuse and fraud, the bail bonds industry in the U.S. doesn’t have the best reputation.

Civil rights advocates call for death of bail bonds

The use of bail bonds dates back centuries as a means to settle disputes peacefully and to ensure a defendant shows up to court by having a friend or family member agree to pay the debt if the accused flees. 

Case study, Durham County: Changes can begin by offering pre-trial services

The Durham County Detention Facility opened in the summer of 1996 with a capacity of 576 single cells. By 2005, the jail was at or over capacity a majority of the time. 

Laying down the law: Officers, DA explain challenges within the system

If you don’t have much experience within the criminal justice system, trying to navigate the system can be frustrating.

Jackson wants to do background checks on volunteers

To lend a helping hand in Jackson County, a willingness to volunteer may not be enough.

Max Patch restored, off-roaders pay

out maxpatchThe off-roaders responsible for causing damage to the popular Pisgah National Forest hiking spot Max Patch have reached a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. 

Honest hunters have little tolerance for renegade tactics

out bear2Shock waves rippled through the mountain hunting community last week as word spread of a sweeping undercover investigation targeting dozens of illegal rogue hunters.

“Operation Something Bruin:” Dozens of rogue hunters busted in illegal mountain poaching ring

coverLast week, state and federal wildlife officers began rounding up dozens of suspected poachers in Western North Carolina, bringing to fruition an undercover investigation that spanned several years across several rural mountain counties and penetrated the heart of an illegal hunting ring that targeted black bears.

New database puts criminal files at law enforcement fingertips

Law enforcement officers and court officials are being trained on how to use a new $17 million state database that pulls together everything known about a criminal to the screen of a laptop.

Officers using the system will know who and what they are dealing with upon arrival at a traffic stop or crime scene. State Controller David McCoy said during a training session in Franklin last week that he is certain the Criminal Justice Law Enforcement Automated Data Services (CJLEADS, for short), will save lives.

Officers and court officials from Jackson, Macon and Swain were at the Franklin training. Similar teaching efforts are under way across the state.

In addition to integrating data, the new system provides an “offender watch” to alert officers and others who might need to know when there is a change in status. For instance, when a warrant is issued on an offender, or if a particular suspect is due in court, officers can receive email alerts.

The database is massive: 41 million files on 13.8 million offenders in North Carolina.

Previously, officers and court officials were forced to search up to seven different systems for the same information, McCoy said. Now, files including the state’s Administrative Office of Courts, the Department of Corrections and sex-offender registry have been merged.

Privacy issues have been considered, and were at the forefront of the database design, the state controller said. Public records on regular Joes and Janes in North Carolina have not been co-mingled with that of criminal offenders.

“And even for bad actors we don’t want to violate anyone’s rights,” McCoy said.

Sondra Phillips, who works in the data integration section of the state controller office, emphasized the system was built using on-the-job suggestions by officers and court personnel. Warnings on an offender come up immediately to help protect those working in the state’s law enforcement field, she said.

Federal agencies also are gaining access, she said, including the FBI, immigration officers and the U.S. Marshals Service. For its part, by June of next year, Phillips said North Carolina hopes to jump through the necessary security hoops to bring national alerts into the state system — such as missing people and wanted suspects.

The Office of the State Controller was selected to rollout the project after building and launching a $100 million payroll system for North Carolina.

The new criminal database will cost taxpayers $8 million a year to maintain.

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