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
State v. Jones, 371 N.C. 548 (Oct. 26, 2018)

On appeal from a decision of a divided panel of the Court of Appeals, ___ N.C. App. ___, 805 S.E.2d 701 (2017), the court affirmed, holding that the citation charging the offense in question was legally sufficient to properly invoke the trial court’s subject matter jurisdiction. The defendant was cited for speeding and charged with operating a motor vehicle when having an open container of alcohol while alcohol remained in his system. With respect to the open container charge, the citation stated that the defendant “did unlawfully and willfully WITH AN OPEN CONTAINER OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE AFTER DRINKING (G.S. 20-138.7(A))[.]” The defendant moved to dismiss the open container charge on grounds that the citation was fatally defective. The District Court denied the motion and found the defendant guilty of both offenses. The defendant appealed to Superior Court and a jury found him guilty of the open container offense. Before the Court of Appeals, the defendant argued that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to try him for the open container offense because the citation failed to allege all of the essential elements of the crime. The Court of Appeals found no error and the Supreme Court affirmed. Relying in part on the Official Commentary to the statutes, the Supreme Court held that a citation need only identify the crime at issue; it need not provide a more exhaustive statement of the crime as is required for other criminal pleadings. If the defendant had concerns about the level of detail contained in the citation, G.S. 15A-922(c) expressly allowed him to move that the offense be charged in a new pleading. The court further determined that because the defendant did not move in District Court to have the State charge him in a new pleading while the matter was pending in the court of original jurisdiction, the defendant was precluded from challenging the citation in another tribunal on those grounds. The court concluded: “A citation that identifies the charged offense in compliance with N.C.G.S. § 15A-302(c) sufficiently satisfies the legal requirements applicable to the contents of this category of criminal pleadings and establishes the exercise of the trial court’s jurisdiction. Under the facts and circumstances of the present case, the citation at issue included sufficient criminal pleading contents in order to properly charge defendant with the misdemeanor offense for which he was found guilty, and the trial court had subject-matter jurisdiction to enter judgment in this criminal proceeding.”

A citation charging transporting an open container of spirituous liquor was not defective. The defendant argued that the citation failed to state that he transported the fortified wine or spirituous liquor in the passenger area of his motor vehicle. The court declined the defendant’s invitation to hold citations to the same standard as indictments, noting that under G.S. 15A-302, a citation need only identify the crime charged, as it did here, putting the defendant on notice of the charge. The court concluded: “Defendant was tried on the citation at issue without objection in the district court, and by a jury in the superior court on a trial de novo. Thus, once jurisdiction was established and defendant was tried in the district court, he was no longer in a position to assert his statutory right to object to trial on citation.” (quotation omitted).

In this DWI case, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court erred by denying his motion to quash a citation on grounds that he did not sign that document and the charging officer did not certify delivery of the citation. Specifically, the defendant argued that the officer’s failure to follow the statutory procedure for service of a citation divested the court of jurisdiction to enter judgment. The court found that the citation, which was signed by the charging officer, was sufficient. [Author’s note: The court’s opinion indicates that the citation was converted to a Magistrate’s Order and that Order was served on the defendant. Thus, the Magistrate’s Order, not the citation, was the relevant charging document and it is not clear why any defect with respect to the defendant’s and officer’s signatures on the citation was material.]

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