Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

Smith's Criminal Case Compendium


This compendium includes significant criminal cases by the U.S. Supreme Court & N.C. appellate courts, Nov. 2008 – Present. Selected 4th Circuit cases also are included.

Jessica Smith prepared case summaries Nov. 2008-June 4, 2019; later summaries are prepared by other School staff.


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E.g., 06/17/2024
E.g., 06/17/2024

The defendant was convicted of misdemeanor stalking in district court in Forsyth County and sentenced to time served. The defendant filed a pro se written notice of de novo appeal to superior court on the ninth day after the district court’s judgment. The State moved to dismiss the appeal under G.S. 15A-1431(d). The superior court dismissed the appeal and a petition for writ of certiorari, and the defendant sought certiorari review in the Court of Appeals.

G.S. 15A-1431 proscribes jurisdictional rules governing criminal appeals from district to superior court. A defendant typically has 10 days from the time of judgment to give notice of de novo appeal by filing a written notice of appeal or by giving notice in open court. Under subsection (d), however, once a defendant complies with a district court judgment, notice of appeal must be given by the defendant in person before the presiding judge or certain other officials. According the State, the defendant had complied with the judgment, since he already served the sentence imposed by the district court. His notice of appeal was therefore defective and deprived the superior court of jurisdiction to hear the appeal. The defendant maintained that his pretrial confinement (leading to the time served judgment) could not serve as voluntary compliance with the judgment within the meaning of the statute. The Court of Appeals agreed with the defendant.

Under the plain language of the statute, “the word ‘compliance’ carries with it a connotation of voluntariness.” Slip op. at 5. Official commentary to the statute also supported this view. In the court’s words:

[The defendant’s] purported ‘compliance’ with his criminal sentence was not his choice. He was involuntarily detained in pre-trial confinement while awaiting trial and was later credited with time served . . . [The defendant] therefore properly gave notice of appeal by doing so in writing within ten days of entry of judgment. Id. at 6.

The superior court’s dismissal of the appeal was therefore unanimously reversed, and the matter remanded for trial in superior court.

(No. COA13-661). The court denied the defendant’s motion to strike the State’s brief, which was filed in an untimely manner without any justification or excuse and after several extensions of the time within which it was authorized to do so had been obtained. However, the court “strongly admonished” counsel for the State “to refrain from engaging in such inexcusable conduct in the future” and that counsel “should understand that any repetition of the conduct disclosed by the present record will result in the imposition of significant sanctions upon both the State and himself personally.”

The court reversed State v. Oates, 215 N.C. App. 491 (Sept. 6, 2011), and held that the State’s notice of appeal of a trial court ruling on a suppression motion was timely. The State’s notice of appeal was filed seven days after the trial judge in open court orally granted the defendant’s pretrial motion to suppress but three months before the trial judge issued his corresponding written order of suppression. The court held that the window for filing a written notice of appeal in a criminal case opens on the date of rendition of the judgment or order and closes fourteen days after entry of the judgment or order. The court clarified that rendering a judgment or an order means to pronounce, state, declare, or announce the judgment or order and is “the judicial act of the court in pronouncing the sentence of the law upon the facts in controversy.” Entering a judgment or an order is “a ministerial act which consists in spreading it upon the record.” It continued:

For the purposes of entering notice of appeal in a criminal case . . . a judgment or an order is rendered when the judge decides the issue before him or her and advises the necessary individuals of the decision; a judgment or an order is entered under that Rule when the clerk of court records or files the judge’s decision regarding the judgment or order.

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