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., 09/26/2021
E.g., 09/26/2021

The trial court erred by imposing a sentence inconsistent with that set out in his plea agreement without informing the defendant that he had a right to withdraw his guilty plea. The defendant was charged with multiple counts involving multiple victims and occurring between 1998 and 2015. On the third day of trial, he negotiated a plea agreement with the State, whereby he would plead guilty to a number of offenses and would receive a single, consolidated active sentence of 290 to 408 months imprisonment. Over the next weeks and prior to sentencing, the defendant wrote to the trial court asserting his innocence to some of the charges and suggesting his desire to withdraw from the plea agreement. The trial court acknowledged receipt of the letters and forwarded them to defense counsel. When the defendant later appeared for sentencing, he formally moved to withdraw his guilty plea, which was denied. Contrary to the plea agreement, the trial court entered two judgments, one for the 2015 offenses and one for the 1998 offenses, based on the different sentencing grids that applied to the crimes. Specifically, the trial court sentenced the defendant to 290 to 408 months for the 2015 offenses, and for the 1998 offenses a separate judgment sentencing the defendant to 288 to 355 months imprisonment. The trial court ordered that the sentences would run concurrently. The defendant appealed. Because the concurrent sentences imposed by the trial court differed from the single sentence agreed to by the defendant in his plea agreement, the defendant was entitled to withdraw his plea. Any change by the trial judge in the sentence agreed to in the plea agreement, even a change benefiting the defendant, requires the judge to give the defendant an opportunity to withdraw his plea.

As conceded by the State, the trial court erred by resentencing the defendant to a sentence greater than that provided for in his plea agreement without giving the defendant an opportunity to withdraw his plea, as required by G.S. 15A-1024.

The trial court did not violate G.S. 15A-1024 (withdrawal of guilty plea when sentence not in accord with plea arrangement) by sentencing the defendant in the presumptive range. Under G.S. 15A-1024, if the trial court decides to impose a sentence other than that provided in a plea agreement, the court must inform the defendant of its decision and that he or she may withdraw the plea; if the defendant chooses to withdraw, the court must grant a continuance until the next court session. Although the defendant characterized the agreement as requiring sentencing in the mitigated range, the court found that his interpretation was not supported by the plain language of the plea arrangement, which stated only that the State “shall not object to punishment in the mitigated range.”

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