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., 06/25/2024
E.g., 06/25/2024

In this Wake County case, defendant appealed her convictions of driving while impaired and felony death by vehicle, arguing the trial court erred by (1) denying her requests for voluntary discovery of laboratory audits and records, and (2) admitting her blood test results into evidence. The Court of Appeals found no error by the trial court. 

While driving to work at 6:00 am in June of 2020, defendant struck and killed a pedestrian walking along the roadway. The section of roadway was straight and conditions were clear that morning. When Raleigh Police responded to the scene, they did not suspect that alcohol was a factor, but an officer requested a blood sample for chemical analysis. After testing at the City-County Bureau of Identification (CCBI), it was determined that defendant had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.18. In May of 2021, defendant was convicted by a jury of driving while impaired and felony death by vehicle. 

Defendant argued that she should have been granted the CCBI laboratory’s audit, non-conformity, and corrective-action records under N.C.G.S. § 15A-903, as they “may have contained information demonstrating ‘an increased possibility of user error in the operation of th[e] machine’ used to analyze her blood sample.” Slip Op. at ¶19. The Court of Appeals disagreed, pointing out that defendant cited no cases to support this proposition. The court explained that while N.C.G.S. § 15A-903 provides that defendant was entitled to complete test results and data involving test procedures, normally “the State need not provide ‘information concerning peer review of the testing procedure, whether the procedure has been submitted to the scrutiny of the scientific community, or is generally accepted in the scientific community.’” Slip Op. at ¶¶23-24, quoting State v. Fair, 164 N.C. App. 770 (2004). After reviewing the extensive amount of information produced related to CCBI’s testing and chain of custody, the court could not establish that defendant suffered any prejudice to her ability to cross-examine the prosecution’s expert, or to her due process rights or right to a fair trial. 

Moving to defendant’s second argument that her blood sample was improperly admitted into evidence because she did not knowingly or voluntarily consent to the blood draw, the court noted that this issue was not raised at trial. Because defendant failed to raise the issue at trial, it was not preserved for appellate review, and the court declined to exercise Appellate Rule 2 to review the issue. Slip Op. at ¶35.  

The defendant’s first trial on charges of DWI, driving while license revoked, and driving without a valid registration or properly displayed license plate ended in a hung jury and mistrial. A retrial was scheduled for approximately two months later. One week before the retrial, defense counsel made a motion for production of the transcript of the prior trial for the purpose of impeaching and cross-examining the state’s witnesses, and moved for a continuance to allow time to receive the transcript. The trial court denied the defendant’s motions, and the retrial was held. Over the state’s objections, the defense called the defendant’s prior trial counsel to testify at the retrial and impeach the state’s witnesses’ testimony. The jury convicted the defendant of all charges and he appealed, arguing that the trial court committed reversible error by denying his motions for a transcript and continuance.

 The appellate court characterized the defendant’s arguments as “a puffer fish, attempting to ‘blow up’ Defendant’s lack of a transcript” into a constitutional error attributable to the state or the court, when it was “more accurately described as a desiccated sardine, consciously canned by his trial counsel.” Noting that any error or prejudice was invited by defense counsel’s delay in filing the motion for a transcript, as well as the failure to pursue other options such as issuing a subpoena to have the court reporter read back testimony at the retrial, the appellate court held that the defendant might have a basis to allege ineffective assistance of counsel, but he failed to demonstrate that the trial court committed prejudicial error by denying the pretrial motions.

Judge Murphy dissented and would have held that the trial court erred by denying defendant’s motions without making the necessary findings on whether the transcript was necessary to the preparation of an effective defense or there were adequate alternatives available.

The trial court’s ex parte orders compelling the production of the defendant’s personnel files and educational records were void ab initio. While employed as a police officer the defendant was involved in a vehicle pursuit that resulted in the death of the pursued driver. Prior to charging the defendant with a crime, the State obtained two separate ex parte orders compelling the production of the defendant’s personnel records from four North Carolina police departments where he had been employed as well as his educational records related to a community college BLET class. After the defendant was indicted for involuntary manslaughter, he unsuccessfully moved to set aside the ex parte orders. On appeal, the court concluded that the orders were void ab initio. Citing In re Superior Court Order, 315 N.C. 378 (1986), and In re Brooks, 143 N.C. App. 601 (2001), both dealing with ex parte orders for records, the court concluded:

The State did not present affidavits or other comparable evidence in support of their motions for the release of [the defendant’s] personnel files and educational records sufficiently demonstrating their need for the documents being sought. Nor was a special proceeding, a civil action, or a criminal action ever initiated in connection with the ex parte motions and orders. For these reasons, the State never took the steps necessary to invoke the superior court’s jurisdiction.

In this misdemeanor DWI case the court held that the defendant had no statutory right to pretrial discovery and rejected the defendant’s argument that G.S. 15A-901 violated due process. The court noted, however, that the defendant did have discovery rights under Brady.

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