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., 10/21/2021
E.g., 10/21/2021

The defendant was charged by arrest warrant with misdemeanor injury to personal property, misdemeanor larceny, and reckless driving after he cut off the end of a truck stop’s air hose, attempted to strike his passenger with it, and then quickly fled with it when confronted by an undercover officer. He was convicted in district court and appealed to superior court. Before trial in superior court, the State moved to amend the charging language to correct the name of the corporate property owner for the injury to personal property and larceny charges. The prosecutor made the amendment on a misdemeanor statement of charges form with no objection from the defendant. The defendant was convicted and appealed. A divided Court of Appeals held that the superior court lacked jurisdiction to try the charges amended through the statement of charges, reasoning that under the language of G.S. 15A-922(e), a statement of charges may be filed after arraignment only if the defendant objects to the State’s original pleading. State v. Capps, ___ N.C. App. ___, 828 S.E.2d 733 (2019). The State appealed and the Supreme Court reversed, reinstating the convictions. The Court held that warrants may be amended at any time when doing so does not materially affect the nature of the charged offense or is otherwise authorized by law. And the State may make the amendment though a statement of charges, because the General Assembly intended statements of charges to be generally treated like amendments. The Court rejected the defendant’s argument that the defendant’s objection to the sufficiency of a warrant is a necessary prerequisite to a post-arraignment statement of charges.

The defendant in this case was charged with sexual activity by a substitute parent under G.S. 14-27.31. The defendant lived at the home of the victim and her mother, and he was the father of the victim’s sister. In 2016, while the victim’s mother was out of the house, the defendant engaged in three different sexual acts with the victim. The victim told her mother, who notified law enforcement, and the defendant was arrested and indicted. The defendant’s first trial ended in a mistrial on two counts, but he was retried and convicted on both. On appeal, the defendant raised two issues.

First, the defendant argued that the trial court erred in allowing the state to amend the indictments by including the words “[a]t the time of the offense, the defendant
was residing in the home with” the victim, contending that this was a substantial alteration of the charge. The appellate court disagreed. The original language used in the indictment adequately alleged that the defendant had assumed the position of a parent in the home of the victim, who was less than 18 years old, and engaged in a sexual act with that person, thereby satisfying all the essential elements of the offense. Since the indictment was already facially valid, and it was not necessary under the statute to allege that the defendant also resided at the home, the amendment did not add an essential element and was not a substantial alteration of the charge.

The defendant also argued that it was error for him to receive two consecutive sentences because the predicate acts for both charges occurred during the same incident. The appellate court viewed this argument as “recasting a double jeopardy argument that has not been preserved for appellate review as a hybrid challenge to the unanimity of the verdict and sufficiency of the indictment,” and held there was no error. The two charges were supported by separate and distinct sexual acts, and the jury instructions and verdict sheets clearly indicated the jury was unanimous as to each of those charges; therefore, the trial court did not err in imposing consecutive sentences for the two offenses.

Defendant was charged by citation with misdemeanor larceny under G.S. 14-72. The prosecutor amended the citation by striking through the charging language and handwriting the word “shoplifting” on the citation, along with the prosecutor’s initials and the date. The defendant entered a guilty plea to a lesser charge of shoplifting under G.S. 14-72.1, but later filed an MAR in district court arguing that the amendment was improper and the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to enter judgment. The district court denied the MAR, and the superior court denied defendant’s petition for writ of certiorari to review the denial. The Court of Appeals granted the defendant’s petition for writ of certiorari, and held that the lower courts erred and the MAR should have been granted. The purported amendment to the citation impermissibly changed the nature of the offense because larceny and shoplifting are separate crimes with different elements. “Thus, the amendment was not legally permissible and deprived the district court of jurisdiction to enter judgment against Defendant.” The Court of Appeals reversed the superior court’s denial of the petition for writ of certiorari and vacated the shoplifting judgment.

There was no fatal variance in an indictment where the State successfully moved to amend the indictment to change the date of the offense from May 10, 2013 to July 14, 2013 but then neglected to actually amend the charging instrument. Time was not of essence to any of the charged crimes and the defendant did not argue prejudice. Rather, he asserted that the very existence of the variance was fatal to the indictment.

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