Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

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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., 09/22/2021
E.g., 09/22/2021

On remand from the Supreme Court, __ N.C. __, 814 S.E.2d 39 (June 8, 2018), of this DWI case, the Court of Appeals declined to exercise its discretion to grant the defendant’s petition for a writ of certiorari to review her claim that the trial court erred by denying her motion to dismiss. The defendant’s motion to dismiss asserted that the State violated G.S. 20-38.4, G.S. 15A-534, and State v. Knoll, 322 N.C. 535 (1988), when the magistrate failed to provide her a written copy of form AOC-CR-271, advising of her right to have witnesses observe her demeanor in jail; and failed to enter sufficient findings of fact to show that the defendant was a danger to herself and others to justify imposing a secured bond pursuant to G.S. 15A-534. Dismissal of charges for violations of statutory rights is a drastic remedy which should be granted sparingly. Before a motion to dismiss should be granted it must appear that the statutory violation caused irreparable prejudice to the preparation of the defendant’s case.

     On the first issue, the State conceded that the magistrate did not comply with G.S. 20-38.4 in that the magistrate did not inform the defendant in writing of the established procedure to have others appear at the jail to observe her condition and failed to require her to list all persons she wanted to contact and telephone numbers on the relevant form. However, the State argued that the defendant could not demonstrate irreparable prejudice to the preparation of her case because the magistrate orally informed the defendant of her right to have witnesses present to observe her condition. In denying the motion to dismiss, the trial court found that the magistrate told the defendant of her right to have individuals come to the detention center to observe her condition and that once she was placed in the detention center, the defendant was allowed to make phone calls to several identified people. These findings are supported by competent evidence.

     With respect to the defendant’s argument that the magistrate violated G.S. 15A-534, the magistrate testified that he considered the defendant’s condition in deciding whether to impose a secured bond and initially entered his reasons on his computer for imposing a secured bond into the “FINDINGS” section of form AOC-CR-270. However, he accidently deleted his reasons listed on form AOC-CR-270 and they were replaced with the text and finding of “BLOOD TEST.” Competent evidence supports the trial court’s findings that the magistrate considered the factors in G.S. 15A-534 in setting the defendant’s bond, and found by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence that the defendant’s physical or mental faculties were impaired and that she was a danger to herself, others or property if released.

     The defendant failed to show that she was denied access to witnesses, her right to have witnesses observe her condition, or her right to collect evidence and did not demonstrate irreparable prejudice to the preparation of her case by the magistrate’s statutory violations and failures to provide her with a copy of form AOC-CR-271 or to make additional factual findings to justify imposing a secured bond under G.S. 15A-534. The court noted that the defendant was informed of her right to have witnesses observe her and had the means and was provided the opportunity to contact potential witnesses. Additionally, the magistrate’s detention order required the defendant to remain in custody for a twelve-hour period or until released into the custody of a sober, responsible adult. In fact, the defendant was released into the custody of a sober acquaintance after spending only two hours and fifty-three minutes in jail.

     The court went on to reject the defendant’s argument that she was per se prejudiced by the magistrate’s statutory violations, pursuant to State v. Hill, 277 N.C. 547 (1971). Distinguishing Hill the court noted that no evidence in the record suggests the State took affirmative steps to deprive the defendant of any access to potential witnesses or an attorney, such as by preventing them from talking to the defendant or entering the jail to observe her. It continued: “Unlike the defendant in Hill, Defendant was told of her right to have observers present, was not limited to one phone call following her arrest, was allowed and did make numerous calls to multiple individuals and was released to a sober adult within less than three hours. Additionally, the Supreme Court later acknowledged in Knoll that the per se prejudice rule stated in Hill is no longer applicable.”

     Ultimately the court found that the defendant’s arguments failed to demonstrate “irreparable prejudice to the preparation of defendant’s case” and that that she did not raise any “good and sufficient cause” to support the court’s exercise of its discretion to grant her petition and issue the writ of certiorari.

The trial court properly denied the defendant’s Knoll motion, in which the defendant argued that he was denied his right to communicate with counsel and friends. The defendant had several opportunities to call counsel and friends to observe him and help him obtain an independent chemical analysis, but the defendant failed to do so. In fact, the defendant asked that his wife be called, but only to tell her that he had been arrested. Thus, the defendant was not denied his rights under Knoll.

In this DWI case, the trial court did not err by denying the defendant’s Knoll motion. The defendant argued that the magistrate violated his rights to a timely pretrial release by setting a $500 bond and holding him in jail for approximately three hours and 50 minutes. The court found that evidence supported the conclusion that the magistrate properly informed the defendant of his rights and that the magistrate properly considered all of the evidence when setting the $500 bond.

Over a dissent, the court held that the trial court did not err by denying the defendant’s Knoll motion in an impaired driving case in which the defendant was detained for almost 24 hours. The court upheld the trial court’s finding that an individual who appeared to take responsibility for the defendant was not a sober responsible adult; a police officer smelled alcohol on the individual’s breath and the individual indicated that he had been drinking. The only statutory violation alleged was a failure to release to a sober, responsible adult, but the individual who appeared was not a sober, responsible adult. The trial court’s conclusions that no violation occurred or alternatively that the defendant failed to show irreparable prejudice was supported by the evidence. The defendant was advised that she could request an attorney or other witness to observe her Intoxilyzer test but she declined to request a witness. Also, the individual who appeared was allowed to see the defendant within 25 minutes of her exiting the magistrate’s office, to meet personally with the defendant, and to talk with and observe the defendant for approximately eight minutes. 

 

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