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., 09/26/2021
E.g., 09/26/2021

The trial court did not err by denying the defendant’s motion to suppress in this DWI case. The defendant had argued that the arresting officer failed to comply with the requirements of G.S. 20-16.2. Specifically, the defendant asserted that he was not adequately informed of his rights under the statute due to the fact that English is not his first language and that the officer’s failure to ensure that these rights were communicated to him in his native language of Burmese resulted in violation of the statute. The court held that State v. Martinez, __ N.C. App. __, 781 S.E.2d 346 (2016) (holding that the admissibility of the results of a chemical analysis test are not conditioned on a defendant’s subjective understanding of the information disclosed to him pursuant to the requirements of G.S. 20-16.2(a)), was controlling. It held: “as long as the rights delineated under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-16.2(a) are disclosed to a defendant — which occurred in the present case — the requirements of the statute are satisfied and it is immaterial whether the defendant comprehends them.”

The trial court properly denied the defendant’s motion to suppress the results of the chemical analysis of his breath. The defendant argued that the officer failed to comply with the statutory requirement of a 15 minute “observation period” prior to the administration of the test. The observation period requirement ensures that “a chemical analyst observes the person or persons to be tested to determine that the person or persons has not ingested alcohol or other fluids, regurgitated, vomited, eaten, or smoked in the 15 minutes immediately prior to the collection of a breath specimen.” However, that “nothing in the relevant regulatory language requires the analyst to stare at the person to be tested in an unwavering manner for a fifteen minute period prior to the administration of the test.” Here, the officer observed the defendant for 21 minutes, during which the defendant did not ingest alcohol or other fluids, regurgitate, vomit, eat, or smoke; during this time the officer lost direct sight of the defendant only for very brief intervals while attempting to ensure that his right to the presence of a witness was adequately protected. As such, the officer complied with the observation period requirement.

The trial court erred by denying the defendant’s motion to suppress intoxilyzer results. After arrest, the defendant was informed of his rights under G.S. 20-16.2(a) and elected to have a witness present. The defendant contacted his witness by phone and asked her to witness the intoxilyzer test. Shortly thereafter his witness arrived in the lobby of the County Public Safety Center; when she informed the front desk officer why she was there, she was told to wait in the lobby. The witness asked the front desk officer multiple times if she needed to do anything further. When the intoxilyzer test was administered, the witness was waiting in the lobby. Finding the case indistinguishable from State v. Hatley, 190 N.C. App. 639 (2008), the court held that after her timely arrival, the defendant’s witness made reasonable efforts to gain access to the defendant but was prevented from doing so and that therefore the intoxilyzer results should have been suppressed. 

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