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 Re D.S., 197 N.C. App. 598 (June 16, 2009) rev’d on other grounds, 364 N.C. 184 (Aug 31 2017)

No fatal variance occurred when a juvenile petition alleged that the juvenile assaulted the victim with his hands and the evidence established that he touched her with an object.

The defendant was convicted by a jury of assault inflicting serious bodily injury and assault on a female based on an argument and fight with the mother of his child. He pushed her down, threw her head into the concrete, punched her, dragged her, and flung her onto the hood of a car. Among other injuries she had two concussions and a fractured eye socket that rendered her temporarily blind in one eye for two weeks. (1) The defendant argued on appeal that the indictment failed to allege the crime of assault inflicting serious bodily injury in that it alleged injuries that would be no more than misdemeanor assault inflicting serious injury, namely, “several lacerations to the face resulting in stitches and a hematoma to the back of the head.” The court of appeals disagreed, holding that the additional description of the victim’s injuries in the indictment was irrelevant as to its validity, and may be regarded as incidental to the salient statutory language, which was present. (2) The injury to the victim’s eye met the statutory definition of “serious bodily injury” in G.S. 14-32.4(a) in that the defendant was completely blind in her left eye for one week and her vision was not fully restored for two full weeks after the assault. She could not drive for one week and was not able to return to work until her vision was completely restored. A reasonable juror thus could have concluded that the injury resulted in a “protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ,” and that it therefore qualified as a serious bodily injury. (3) Finally, the court declined to consider the defendant’s argument on appeal that the trial court should have instructed the jury on misdemeanor assault inflicting serious injury. The defendant never objected to the instructions at trial and failed to argue plain error on appeal. Therefore, he waived the issue on appeal. A judge dissenting in part would have found the evidence here insufficient to qualify as a “protracted loss or impairment” when the victim fully recovered in in two weeks.

An indictment charging assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury on victim E.D. was not defective. The defendant asserted that the indictment was defective because it failed to include the word “assault” in its description of the offense. The court concluded that while the indictment failed to include that word, it sufficiently charged the offense. Specifically, it alleged, in relevant part: “that . . . the defendant . . . did E.D. with a screwdriver, a deadly weapon, inflicting serious injury, against the form of the statute in such case made and provided and against the peace and dignity of the State.” Additionally, it correctly listed the offense as “AWDW SERIOUS INJURY” and referenced the correct statute. As such it sufficiently apprised the defendant of the crime.

State v. Lee, 218 N.C. App. 42 (Jan. 17, 2012)

There was no fatal variance between an indictment charging assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury and the evidence at trial. The indictment alleged the deadly weapon to be a handgun while the trial evidence showed it was an AK-47 rifle. The court reasoned: “both a handgun and an AK-47 rifle are a type of gun, are obviously dangerous weapons, and carry the same legal significance.” Moreover, the defendant failed to demonstrate that the variance caused prejudice.  

Even if there was a fatal variance between the indictment, which alleged that the defendant accomplished the strangulation by placing his hands on the victim’s neck, and the evidence at trial, the variance was immaterial because the allegation regarding the method of strangulation was surplusage.

There was no fatal variance between a warrant charging assault on a government officer under G.S. 14-33(c)(4) and the evidence at trial. The warrant charged that the assault occurred while the officer was discharging the duty of arresting the defendant for communicating threats but at trial the officer testified that the assault occurred when he was arresting the defendant for being intoxicated and disruptive in public. The pivotal element was whether the assault occurred while the officer was discharging his duties; what crime the arrest was for is immaterial.

Indictment charging assault on a government officer under G.S. 14-33(c)(4) need not allege the specific duty the officer was performing and if it does, it is surplusage.

State v. Collins, 221 N.C. App. 604 (July 17, 2012)

There was no fatal defect in an indictment for felony assault on a handicapped person. The indictment alleged, in part, that the defendant unlawfully, willfully, and feloniously assaulted and struck “a handicapped person by throwing Carol Bradley Collins across a room and onto the floor and by striking her with a crutch on the arm. In the course of the assault the defendant used a deadly weapon, a crutch. This act was in violation of North Carolina General Statutes section 14-17.” The court rejected the argument that the indictment was defective for failing to allege the specific nature of the victim’s handicap. The court also rejected the defendant’s argument that the indictment was defective by failing to allege that he knew or reasonably should have known of the victim’s handicap. Citing State v. Thomas, 153 N.C. App. 326 (2002) (assault with a firearm on a law enforcement officer case), the court concluded that although the indictment did not specifically allege this element, its allegation that he “willfully” assaulted a handicapped person indicated that he knew that the victim was handicapped. Finally, the court determined that the indictment was not defective because of failure to cite the statute violated. Although the indictment incorrectly cited G.S. 14-17, the statute on murder, the failure to reference the correct statute was not, by itself, a fatal defect.

Indictment charging malicious conduct by prisoner under G.S. 14-258.4 need not allege the specific duty the officer was performing and if it does, it is surplusage.

State v. Barnett, 245 N.C. App. 101 (Jan. 19, 2016) rev’d in part on other grounds, 369 N.C. 298 (Dec 21 2016)

A two-count indictment properly alleged habitual misdemeanor assault. Count one alleged assault on a female, alleging among other things that the defendant’s conduct violated G.S. 14-33 and identifying the specific injury to the victim. The defendant did not contest the validity of this count. Instead, he argued that count two, alleging habitual misdemeanor assault, was defective because it failed to allege a violation of G.S. 14-33 and that physical injury had occurred. Finding State v. Lobohe, 143 N.C. App. 555 (2001) (habitual impaired driving case following the format of the indictment at issue in this case), controlling the court held that the indictment complied with G.S. 15A-924 & -928. 

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