State v. Collins, __ N.C. App. __, 783 S.E.2d 9 (2016)

Dismissed in part
No Error
Vacated in Part
There is a dissent.

In a first-degree statutory rape case, the superior court lacked original subject matter jurisdiction for three out of four counts of first-degree statutory rape where no evidence showed that the defendant was at least 16-years-old at the time of the offenses. All four indictments alleged that the offenses occurred between “January 1, 2011 and November 30, 2011.” The state argued defendant was at least 16 during the relevant time period because the arrest warrants erroneously listed his birth date as 9/14/1994. However, defendant was actually born on 9/14/1995 and did not turn 16 until September 14, 2011. The evidence established that only the fourth offense occurred after defendant’s 16th birthday. Neither party, including defendant’s trial counsel, recognized the error regarding his age. Over a dissent, the court found jurisdiction was proper as to the fourth offense, which occurred in November 2011, even though the indictment alleged periods of time during which defendant was both 15 and 16. The court noted that temporal specificity requirements for indictments in cases involving sexual assaults on children are relaxed and that the defendant could have requested a special verdict or moved for a bill of particulars for more specificity as to the allegations. The dissent would have found that the superior court lacked jurisdiction for all four offenses because defendant was under age 16 during over 75% of the time period alleged in the indictments. Referring to the mistake as a “travesty of justice,” the dissent stated that the assertion of jurisdiction over defendant as an adult based on a mistake as to his age was a jurisdictional error that “irrevocably changed the course of his prosecution.”

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