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., 06/29/2024
E.g., 06/29/2024

The trial court had no statutory authority to enter a bail bond forfeiture where the defendant was not “released” from custody within the meaning of Article 26 of G.S. Chapter 15A because he was subject to an ICE detainer, was picked up by federal agents, and was deported to Mexico.  In 2018, the defendant was charged with a felony and a $100,000 secured bond was set as a condition of his pretrial release.  The defendant and his surety posted the bond, but the defendant was not released.  Instead, he was held for about 24 hours until ICE agents took him into custody directly from deputies from the Granville County Sheriff’s Office and eventually deported him.  Because he had been deported, the defendant failed to appear at trial and, consequently, the trial court entered a bond forfeiture order.  The surety filed a petition for remission of forfeiture under the “extraordinary circumstances” provision of G.S. 15A-544.8(b)(2).  The trial court denied the petition and the court of appeals reversed.  Saying that the case was one of first impression, the court conducted plain-language statutory interpretation and summarized that analysis as follows:

The bond forfeiture statutes apply only to “a defendant who was released” under those statutes. Lemus was never released. Therefore, the trial court had no authority to conduct a forfeiture proceeding and should have granted the petition to set aside the forfeiture for that reason.

 The court went on to reject various procedural and policy arguments advanced by the school board as to why the forfeiture was properly ordered.

On remand from the Supreme Court, __ N.C. __, 814 S.E.2d 39 (June 8, 2018), of this DWI case, the Court of Appeals declined to exercise its discretion to grant the defendant’s petition for a writ of certiorari to review her claim that the trial court erred by denying her motion to dismiss. The defendant’s motion to dismiss asserted that the State violated G.S. 20-38.4, G.S. 15A-534, and State v. Knoll, 322 N.C. 535 (1988), when the magistrate failed to provide her a written copy of form AOC-CR-271, advising of her right to have witnesses observe her demeanor in jail; and failed to enter sufficient findings of fact to show that the defendant was a danger to herself and others to justify imposing a secured bond pursuant to G.S. 15A-534. Dismissal of charges for violations of statutory rights is a drastic remedy which should be granted sparingly. Before a motion to dismiss should be granted it must appear that the statutory violation caused irreparable prejudice to the preparation of the defendant’s case.

     On the first issue, the State conceded that the magistrate did not comply with G.S. 20-38.4 in that the magistrate did not inform the defendant in writing of the established procedure to have others appear at the jail to observe her condition and failed to require her to list all persons she wanted to contact and telephone numbers on the relevant form. However, the State argued that the defendant could not demonstrate irreparable prejudice to the preparation of her case because the magistrate orally informed the defendant of her right to have witnesses present to observe her condition. In denying the motion to dismiss, the trial court found that the magistrate told the defendant of her right to have individuals come to the detention center to observe her condition and that once she was placed in the detention center, the defendant was allowed to make phone calls to several identified people. These findings are supported by competent evidence.

     With respect to the defendant’s argument that the magistrate violated G.S. 15A-534, the magistrate testified that he considered the defendant’s condition in deciding whether to impose a secured bond and initially entered his reasons on his computer for imposing a secured bond into the “FINDINGS” section of form AOC-CR-270. However, he accidently deleted his reasons listed on form AOC-CR-270 and they were replaced with the text and finding of “BLOOD TEST.” Competent evidence supports the trial court’s findings that the magistrate considered the factors in G.S. 15A-534 in setting the defendant’s bond, and found by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence that the defendant’s physical or mental faculties were impaired and that she was a danger to herself, others or property if released.

     The defendant failed to show that she was denied access to witnesses, her right to have witnesses observe her condition, or her right to collect evidence and did not demonstrate irreparable prejudice to the preparation of her case by the magistrate’s statutory violations and failures to provide her with a copy of form AOC-CR-271 or to make additional factual findings to justify imposing a secured bond under G.S. 15A-534. The court noted that the defendant was informed of her right to have witnesses observe her and had the means and was provided the opportunity to contact potential witnesses. Additionally, the magistrate’s detention order required the defendant to remain in custody for a twelve-hour period or until released into the custody of a sober, responsible adult. In fact, the defendant was released into the custody of a sober acquaintance after spending only two hours and fifty-three minutes in jail.

     The court went on to reject the defendant’s argument that she was per se prejudiced by the magistrate’s statutory violations, pursuant to State v. Hill, 277 N.C. 547 (1971). Distinguishing Hill the court noted that no evidence in the record suggests the State took affirmative steps to deprive the defendant of any access to potential witnesses or an attorney, such as by preventing them from talking to the defendant or entering the jail to observe her. It continued: “Unlike the defendant in Hill, Defendant was told of her right to have observers present, was not limited to one phone call following her arrest, was allowed and did make numerous calls to multiple individuals and was released to a sober adult within less than three hours. Additionally, the Supreme Court later acknowledged in Knoll that the per se prejudice rule stated in Hill is no longer applicable.”

     Ultimately the court found that the defendant’s arguments failed to demonstrate “irreparable prejudice to the preparation of defendant’s case” and that that she did not raise any “good and sufficient cause” to support the court’s exercise of its discretion to grant her petition and issue the writ of certiorari.

State v. Diaz [Duplicated], 256 N.C.App. 528, 808 S.E.2d 450 (Nov. 21, 2017) aff'd on other grounds, 372 N.C. 493, 831 S.E.2d 532 (Aug 16 2019)

In a case where the defendant was found guilty of abduction of a child, statutory rape and second-degree sexual exploitation, the trial court rejected the defendant’s argument that his constitutional right to a fair trial was violated when the State admitted into evidence his affidavit of indigency, which indicated that he was under a secured bond of $500,000 which had not been posted. Specifically, the defendant argued he was prejudiced by the jurors knowing that he was in custody and that the information on the affidavit violated the presumption of innocence. The court held that even if the jurors had inferred that the defendant was in custody and unable to pay the bond, his right to a fair trial was not violated. It noted that although there was some evidence that the defendant was in custody, he was not shackled or handcuffed in the courtroom. 

In this Durham County case, defendant appealed his convictions for first-degree kidnapping, three counts of assault, and interfering with emergency communications, arguing (1) he was prejudiced by not receiving a pretrial release hearing under G.S. 15A-534.1, (2) double jeopardy for his multiple assault convictions, (3) his conviction for assault by strangulation was improper, and (4) insufficient evidence to support his kidnapping conviction. The Court of Appeals found no prejudicial error.

In January of 2020, defendant and a woman he was living with began arguing, culminating in defendant headbutting the woman several times. Eventually defendant began beating the woman and dragged her by her hair, then throwing her and choking her in the bedroom. The woman eventually hid her child in a closet and jumped out of a window on the third-floor to escape defendant. The woman’s mother attempted to intervene but defendant struck her in the mouth, busting the mother’s lip. Defendant also took the mother’s phone and threw it away, but she retrieved it to call police. After defendant was arrested, the magistrate did not set bond on his kidnapping charge, determining it to be a domestic violence act, and ordered the State to produce defendant for a hearing on conditions of pretrial release. The State did not comply with this order, and defendant remained in custody, not posing bond on any of the charges. After remaining in custody from March to September of 2020, defendant filed a motion to dismiss his kidnapping charge, arguing G.S. 15A-534.1 required dismissal. Defendant’s charges were consolidated the next day with pretrial release conditions and a bond of $250,000; defendant did not post bond and remained in custody. The trial court also denied defendant’s motion to dismiss. Defendant reached trial in November 2021, and was convicted after a bench trial, receiving credit for time served. 

Considering (1), the Court of Appeals noted that the State admitted it did not hold the pretrial release hearing but explained the failure as inadvertent due to the onset of COVID-19. Analyzing the impact, the court explained “[t]he inadvertence does not excuse the State; rather, it is relevant to show the absence of a flagrant constitutional violation.” Slip Op. at 11. The court also noted defendant did not post bond after his initial arrest, and “even if the State had held a timely pretrial release hearing on the kidnapping charge, Defendant would not have been released.” Id. at 11. As a result, defendant could not show irreparable prejudice to the preparation of his case. 

Next the court considered (2), as defendant argued the events constituted one long assault. The court disagreed, explaining there was an “interruption in the momentum” and “a change in location” between the events of the three assaults. Id. at 14-15. The court held each offense was separate and distinct, and found no merit in defendant’s argument. The court applied the same analysis for (3), pointing to “a distinct interruption in the assaults” to justify defendant’s convictions for assault inflicting serious bodily injury as well as assault by strangulation. Id. at 16. 

Finally, the court took up (4), noting that defendant’s acts of confining and removing the victim represented separate and distinct acts from the underlying assaults, justifying the kidnapping charge. The court explained that “Defendant’s confinement of [the victim] by pulling her by the hair back into the bedroom, confining her in there by kicking at the locked door, and forcing her to escape by jumping from the third floor window, were separate, complete acts apart from Defendant’s other assaults upon her.” Id. at 19. 

Even if the magistrate erred by ordering an “option bond” that gave the defendant a choice between paying a $1,000 secured bond or a $1,000 “unsecured bond and being released to a sober, responsible adult” without making written findings of fact to support the secured bond, the defendant failed to show how he was prejudiced where he was released on an unsecured bond to his wife.

A district court judge did not err by failing to follow an administrative order issued by the senior resident superior court judge when that order was not issued in conformity with G.S. 15A-535(a) (issuance of policies on pretrial release). The administrative order provided, in part, that “the obligations of a bondsman or other surety pursuant to any appearance bond for pretrial release are, and shall be, terminated immediately upon the entry of the State and a Defendant into a formal Deferred Prosecution Agreement.” The district court judge was not required to follow the administrative order because the superior court judge issued it without consulting with the chief district court judge or other district court judges within the district.

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