NC Supreme Court: to avoid felony charge, arrestees must cough up drugs voluntarily | News | Indy Week
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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

NC Supreme Court: to avoid felony charge, arrestees must cough up drugs voluntarily

Posted by on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 12:29 PM

The N.C. Supreme Court has ruled that individuals brought into jails involuntarily are nevertheless responsible for drugs in their possession. The opinion essentially states that law enforcement officers are not required to explicitly warn arrestees that possessing drugs inside jails is a felony. 

Last month in our story "A pot to piss in" we reported on the oral arguments for the case of Christopher Barnes, of Wayne County. Barnes was arrested on suspicion of a DWI after failing sobriety tests. Goldsboro police officers took him into custody against his will, in handcuffs. Inside the Wayne County Jail a bag of pot dropped out of Barnes' pants, and he was charged with the felony of possession of a controlled substance on the premises of a local confinement facility. 

During oral arguments, Barnes' attorney had argued that the case hinged on free will, and that Barnes should not be charged with the felony because he didn't willfully smuggle the drugs into the jail. In a split decision last year, the Court of Appeals ruled that possession of drugs inside a penal institution does not require specific intent, and that knowledge of the possession qualifies it as a voluntary crime. 

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Judicial opinion rules that individuals brought into jails involuntarily are subject to enhanced felony charges when drugs are found in their possession.

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