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., 09/22/2021
E.g., 09/22/2021

In 2007 the defendant was convicted of DWI and felonious speeding to elude arrest, charges arising from a single incident.  In 2018 he filed a petition for expunction of the speeding to elude charge.  The trial court denied his petition, agreeing with the State’s argument that because the charge for “fleeing to elude [was filed under] the same file number as DWI” it was an offense “involving impaired driving” and was therefore ineligible for an expunction.  While “[w]hether to grant an expunction is a discretionary determination” normally reviewed for abuse of discretion, the court reviewed de novo whether the trial court had erred as a matter of law by interpreting G.S. 15A-145.5(a)(8a) as to render the defendant ineligible for expunction due to the speeding to elude charge being an “offense involving impaired driving as defined in G.S. 20-4.01(24a).”  Noting that the speeding to elude conviction involved impaired driving as a matter of fact, the court explained that “the statutory regime defines expunction eligibility in term of the offense in question” and that felonious speeding to elude arrest is not defined in G.S. 20-4.01(24a) as an “offense involving impaired driving.”  Thus, the trial court made an error of law in determining that the defendant was categorically ineligible for expunction.

Because the trial court failed to consider evidence of the defendant’s eligibility for conditional discharge pursuant to G.S. 90-96, the court vacated the judgment and remanded for resentencing. The defendant pleaded guilty to driving while impaired and possession of LSD. According to the plea agreement, the defendant stipulated to his prior record level for each offense, and that he would be placed on probation. In exchange, the State agreed to dismiss additional drug possession charges against the defendant. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the defendant received suspended sentences. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred by granting a suspended sentence rather than a conditional discharge. The trial court had denied this request, concluding that the defendant was asking for something beyond the scope of his plea agreement. The Court of Appeals agreed with the defendant, noting that defense counsel asked for such a discharge during the plea hearing and that the conditional discharge statute was mandatory for eligible defendants. The court rejected the State’s argument that the defendant failed to present evidence that he was qualified for conditional discharge, concluding instead that the burden is on the State to establish that the defendant is not eligible for conditional discharge by proving the defendant’s prior record. Here, the trial court did not afford either party the opportunity to establish whether or not the defendant was eligible for conditional discharge. The court therefore vacated the judgment and remanded for a new sentencing hearing, directing the trial court to follow the procedure for the consideration of eligibility for conditional discharge.

The trial court erred by applying G.S. 14-50.30 and expunging the defendant’s conviction for an offense occurring on February 6, 1995. At the time, the statute only applied to offenses occurring on or after December 1, 2008. 

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