In UNC’s School of Government, Jeffrey Welty specializes in criminal law and procedure. As the founder of the North Carolina Criminal Law Blog, Welty guides individuals interacting with the criminal justice system.
“Nobody asked me to start it. It was something that I wanted to start,” said Welty when discussing the blog. “The first post was in early 2009 and initially it was just me writing something every day for the blog.
“Having read other legal blogs and thought that was a good way to disseminate ideas and engage with people, I thought we could have something like that here that helps users stay on top of changes in the criminal law or address interesting issues.”
Welty said before long, several of his colleagues started pitching in and contributing posts. Ten years later, the blog has a new post every single weekday from a team of writers.
The blog’s area of expertise is providing background information and context to a particular case.
One of Welty’s current posts centers around the issue of whether or not a police officer can take a person’s gun away (open carry or legal concealed carry with a permit) during the duration of a traffic stop.
“That’s the question that comes up a lot for me” Welty said. “I’ve had a number of officers ask me that question and citizens as well and so I’ll write about that and say what I think the law is and a little bit about why, not in the context of any specific controversy, but in the context of a legal issue that comes up all the time and that people are interested in.”
Listen to part one of the interview with Jeffrey Welty:
Another way Welty has helped bring trial law into the 21st century is by converting a 1,000 page prosecutors trial manual into a more user-friendly digital format.
“It was so big and cumbersome that prosecutors did not want to carry it around into courts,” Welty said. “Maybe they’d be a little bit embarrassed to be carrying it around into court, so what we did recently is we put a bunch of time and some money into translating it online, not just slap the PDF up there and hope for the best, but really creating a natively digital product that’s indexed and it’s searchable and it’s interactive.”
In the online document, prosecutors can leave comments or questions about different issues. Prosecutors have praised the product because of its mobile-friendly layout as well.
The document is also accessible by the general public, not just prosecutors.
“Some parts of it, anybody can access, go on there and see much of the basic legal information. What are the proper procedures for getting an indictment? How do we decide whether to change venue in a case? A defense lawyer can access that, a defendant can, a concerned citizen can.”
Listen to part two of the interview with Jeffrey Welty: