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., 12/05/2021
E.g., 12/05/2021

A confidential informant called the local police department, describing the defendant’s appearance and stating that the defendant would be at a certain location with a significant amount of methamphetamine in his bookbag. When the officers arrived at the scene, they found the defendant, matching the description, and sitting down with a bag and a knife. The officers asked the defendant if he had anything on him, to which the defendant responded he had marijuana in his pocket. After the officers retrieved the marijuana, the bag, and the knife, the defendant ran and was quickly apprehended by the officers.

At trial, the defendant stipulated that his book bag contained methamphetamine and heroin. The defendant moved to dismiss at the close of the State’s evidence and again at the close of all evidence, both of which were denied. The defendant was found guilty of possession with intent to sell and deliver methamphetamine, possession of heroin, misdemeanor possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, resisting a public officer, and attaining habitual felon status.

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred when it denied his motion to dismiss the charge for resisting a public officer because there was a fatal variance between the indictment allegation and the evidence. Specifically, the indictment alleged that at the time of the defendant’s resistance, the detective was “attempting to take the defendant into custody for processing narcotics” but the evidence at trial only showed that the defendant ran from officers, including the detective, after a small amount of marijuana was seized from his person. Slip op. at ¶ 14. In rejecting the defendant’s argument, the Court of Appeals held that that an essential element of the charge of resisting a public officer is the identification of the official duty an officer was discharging or attempting to discharge at the time of a defendant’s resistance, rather than the specific basis for arrest. Thus, the Court concluded that the actual basis of arrest is not necessary to properly charge the offense of resisting a public officer.

The indictment properly charged resisting a public officer. On appeal the defendant argued that the indictment was invalid because it failed to sufficiently allege the officer’s public office. The indictment alleged that the defendant “did resist, delay and obstruct Agent B.L. Wall, a public officer holding the office of North Carolina State Law Enforcement Agent, by refusing commands to leave the premises, assaulting the officer, refusing verbal commands during the course of arrest for trespassing and assault, and continuing to resist arrest.” Count I of the indictment which charged the separate offense of assault on a government officer, identified the officer as “Agent B.L. Wall, a state law enforcement officer employed by the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles.” Both counts, taken together, provided the defendant sufficient information to identify the office in question.

     The court also rejected the defendant’s argument that the indictment was defective because it failed to fully and clearly articulate a duty that the officer was discharging. After noting the language in Count II, the court noted that Count III, alleging trespass, asserted that the defendant remained on the premises of the specified DMV office “after having been notified not to remain there by a person in charge of the premises.” The court held that “the charges” specifically state the duties the officer was attempting to discharge, namely: commanding the defendant to leave the premises and arresting or attempting to rest her when she failed to comply.

     The court went on to hold that the officer was acting within the scope of his duties at the time. It noted that G.S. 20-49.1(a) “contains an expansive grant of power,” vesting DMV inspectors with the same powers vested in law enforcement officers by statute or common law. Thus, the officer was acting under the authority given to him under the statute at the time and was acting within the scope of his duties. The court concluded: “Even though the indictment could have been be more specific, we decline to require that it be hyper-technical.”

Over a dissent, the court held that the trial court did not err by denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss a charge of resisting a public officer on grounds of fatal variance. The indictment specified that the defendant resisted by running away from the officer on foot. The evidence showed that although the defendant initially was on a moped, he continued to elude the officer on foot after the moped overturned.

There was no fatal variance in a resisting an officer case where the indictment alleged that the defendant refused to drop what was in his hands (plural) and the evidence showed that he refused to drop what was in his hand (singular). The variance was not material. 

An indictment for resisting an officer was not defective. The indictment alleged that the defendant resisted “by not obeying [the officer’s] command [to stop]." The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the indictment failed to state with sufficient particularity the manner in which the defendant resisted.

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