HB 950 (S.L. 2012-142) adds requirements for remitting costs in criminal cases where a defendant is found guilty or pleads guilty or nolo contendere, including the $600.00 lab fee that is assessed where there has been DNA analysis, toxicology, or drug analysis performed at the State Crime Lab or a local crime lab.
Previously, lab fees for services performed by the North Carolina State Crime or a local crime lab facility could be waived or reduced by the court making a finding of just cause to grant such a waiver or reduction. This law adds the following language to G.S. 7A-304(a), requiring findings of fact and conclusions of law to support a finding of just cause: “Only upon entry of a written order, supported by findings of fact and conclusions of law, determining that there is just cause, the court may (i) waive costs assessed under this section or (ii) waive or reduce costs assessed under subdivisions (7) or (8) of this section.” (Subdivisions (7) and (8) are the $600.00 lab fee provisions.)
The law also amends G.S. 7A-38.7(a) to require findings of fact and conclusions of law supporting a finding of just cause to waive or reduce fees associated with mediation: “The court may waive or reduce a fee assessed under this section only upon entry of a written order, supported by findings of fact and conclusions of law, determining there is just cause to grant the waiver or reduction.”
These changes become effective July 1, 2012, and apply to fees waived on or after that date.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is presenting a two-day conference which will address the techniques used in firearm and toolmark comparisons, the standards for this discipline, and efforts to apply more objective and quantitative measurment based techniques to this type of analysis.
This conference is being broadcast live online on July 10-11, 2012 and can be viewed here. Speakers will discuss many of the criticisms of the field of firearm and toolmark analysis that were raised in the 2009 NAS Report. Presenters are addressing what measurements can be made, standards for comparison, and what information should go in the notes section of lab reports. There is also a simultaneous transcription of the conference being produced.
There are speakers from SWGGUN, AFTE, NIST and the FBI and ATF Laboratories, as well as private labs. The conference agenda is available here. Online viewers can ask questions of the speakers using Twitter.
Jessica Smith’s recent post, Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth, on the School of Government’s North Carolina Criminal Law blog reminded readers about the use notice and demand statutes in cases involving lab reports or chain of custody statements. Notice and demand statutes, in a nutshell, allow prosecutors to obtain a waiver of a defendant’s confrontation rights by providing to the defendant notice of the state’s intention to introduce lab reports or chain of custody statements without live testimony. If the defendant does not object, such evidence may be introduced at trial without the testimony of the analyst or evidence custodian.
Prof. Smith’s post provides a useful table which summarizes the requirements of the notice and demand statutes. The table and additional information is also available in this School of Government Bulletin. Attorneys who wish to object should refer to the table and the corresponding statutes to determine the timing of their objection/demand for live testimony. A sample Notice of Objection is available on the IDS forensics website (scroll down to “Other Motions and Orders”).
Update: See this 7/25 post by Jessica Smith on proper execution of notice and demand procedures and recent case law addressing notice and demand.