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., 09/25/2021
E.g., 09/25/2021

The defendant pled guilty to felony serious injury by vehicle based on a single vehicle accident. The State presented a factual basis for the plea indicating that the defendant’s girlfriend’s infant child was injured and that an analysis of the defendant’s blood showed the presence of Alprazolam and Benzodiazepine. The court of appeals granted the defendant’s petition for writ of certiorari but rejected his argument that the factual basis for the plea was insufficient under G.S. 15A-1022(c). The court concluded that the information was sufficient despite not including information about the timing of the defendant’s impairment or the seriousness of the infant’s injuries, because those elements could reasonably be inferred from the other information the State provided. A dissenting judge would have denied the defendant’s petition for writ of certiorari and granted the State’s motion to dismiss the appeal.

There was a sufficient factual basis to support the defendant’s guilty plea to robbery charges. The defendant stipulated that a factual basis existed to support his guilty plea and then stipulated to the State’s summary of the factual basis which it provided to the trial court. After the State entered its summary into the record, the trial court asked the defendant if he had any additions or corrections and he responded in the negative.

Because there was an insufficient factual basis to support an Alford plea that included an admission to aggravating factors, the court vacated the plea and remanded for proceedings on the original charge. The defendant was charged with the first-degree murder of his wife. He entered an Alford plea to second-degree murder, pursuant to a plea agreement that required him to concede the existence of two aggravating factors. The trial court accepted the plea agreement, found the existence of those aggravating factors, and sentenced the defendant for second-degree murder in the aggravated range. The court found that there was not a sufficient factual basis to support the aggravating factor that the offense was especially heinous, cruel, and atrocious. The record did not show excessive brutality, or physical pain, psychological suffering, or dehumanizing aspects. The court rejected the State’s argument that the aggravating factor was supported by the fact that the victim was killed within the “sanctuary” of her home. On this issue, the court distinguished prior case law on grounds that in those cases the defendant was not lawfully in the victim’s home; here the crime occurred in a home that the defendant lawfully shared with the victim. The court also rejected the State’s argument that the mere fact that the victim did not die instantaneously supported the aggravating factor. The court also found an insufficient factual basis to support the aggravating factor that the defendant took advantage of a position of trust or confidence, reasoning that “[t]he relationship of husband and wife does not per se support a finding of trust or confidence where [t]here was no evidence showing that defendant exploited his wife's trust in order to kill her.” (quotation omitted). Here, there was no evidence that the defendant so exploited his wife’s trust.

There was a sufficient factual basis for the defendant’s pleas to possession of a stolen firearm and possession with intent to sell or deliver a controlled substance. There was evidence that the gun was stolen and that the defendant knew or had reasonable grounds to know that. There was also evidence that the defendant possessed cocaine with the intent to sell and deliver it. Additionally, the fact that the defendant purchased the firearm in exchange for cocaine constituted other incriminating evidence of knowledge and intent.

There was a sufficient factual basis for the defendant’s plea to felony breaking or entering where the State’s summary of the evidence was sufficient under G.S. 15A-1022(c). The State indicated that BB&T owned a residence located at 128 Lake Drive in Candler as a result of a foreclosure and that the defendant broke into the house and was preparing to move in when she was discovered on the property.

The prosecutor’s summary of facts and the defendant’s stipulations were sufficient to establish a factual basis for the plea.

There was an adequate factual basis for the defendant’s Alford plea in a child abuse case based on starvation where the trial court heard evidence from a DSS attorney, the victim, and the defendant’s expert witness.

State v. Flint, 199 N.C. App. 709 (Sept. 15, 2009)

Holding, over a dissent, that there was an inadequate factual basis for some of the pleaded-to felonies. While the transcript of plea addressed 68 felony charges plus a habitual felon indictment, the trial court relied solely on the State’s factual basis document, which addressed only 47 charges. The transcript of plea form could not provide the factual basis for the plea. Nor could the indictments serve this purpose where they did not appear to have been before the trial judge at the time of the plea.

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