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., 04/21/2024
E.g., 04/21/2024

In 1999, the defendant was found guilty of assault on a female, and the trial judge entered a prayer for judgment continued (PJC) with a condition that the defendant pay costs of court. In 2017, the defendant was denied a concealed carry permit in West Virginia on the ground that his 1999 case resulted in a conviction for domestic violence and that he misstated in his permit application that he had never been convicted of an act of violence or act of domestic violence. In 2018, the defendant filed a motion in North Carolina to enter judgment in the 1999 case, which he then would be able to appeal to superior court for a trial de novo. The district court denied the motion, and the defendant appealed to the Court of Appeals. The Court found that the defendant did not have a right to appeal and refused to treat the defendant’s brief as a petition for a writ of certiorari. The Court therefore dismissed the defendant’s appeal. In addition to its holding, the Court made several other observations. (1) The District Attorney’s office that handled the defendant’s 1999 assault on a female case advised West Virginia that the case involved domestic violence even though the remaining records in ACIS indicated that the case did not involve domestic violence. (2) The Court recognized that it could be argued that the defendant’s representation on his permit application was not a misrepresentation about whether he had a conviction because the question is ambiguous and he could have believed in good faith that a PJC was not a conviction. (3) The Court observed that although a PJC with a condition that the defendant pay costs is not a condition that converts a PJC into a final judgment, a trial judge may not impose that condition without the defendant’s consent. When a defendant consents to a PJC, the defendant waives any right to appeal. (4) In support of its refusal to treat the defendant’s brief as a petition for a writ of certiorari, the Court stated that it would be unfair to the State to allow the defendant to renege on a twenty-year-old deal for a PJC with costs, ask the trial court to enter judgment, and appeal the judgment to superior court, which would most certainly result in dismissal of the charges because the State no longer has the evidence to proceed. (5) The court observed that G.S. 15A-1416(b)(1) gives the State the right to move for appropriate relief to enter a final judgment on a PJC, presumably when a defendant has not satisfied the conditions of a PJC, but the defendant does not have the same statutory right. (6) The court noted that the defendant can petition the superior court for a writ of certiorari under Rule 19 of the North Carolina Rules of Superior and District Court.

The court per curiam affirmed the decision below, Walters v. Cooper, 226 N.C. App. 166 (Mar. 19, 2013), in which the court of appeals had held, over a dissent, that a PJC entered upon a conviction for sexual battery does not constitute a “final conviction” and therefore cannot be a “reportable conviction” for purposes of the sex offender registration statute.

In this Robeson County case, defendant appealed his conviction for misdemeanor death by vehicle, arguing error as (1) the prayer for judgment continued (PJC) was intended to be a final judgment in the matter, and (2) the almost seven-year delay in entering judgment was unreasonable. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment. 

In October of 2011, defendant crossed the center line of a roadway when attempting to turn left, causing a collision with a motorcyclist who died of injuries sustained in the collision. Defendant pleaded guilty to misdemeanor death by vehicle in October of 2014. Defendant’s plea agreement required him to plead guilty and acknowledge responsibility in open court, and stated the trial court would then enter a prayer for judgment in the matter. In August of 2020, defendant was charged with involuntary manslaughter due to another motor vehicle accident, and the State moved to pray judgment in the misdemeanor death by vehicle case. Over defendant’s opposition, the trial court granted the State’s motion and entered a judgment imposing a sentence of imprisonment that was suspended for supervised probation.  

Considering issue (1), the Court of Appeals noted that applicable precedent has made a distinction between PJCs that impose conditions “amounting to punishment” versus PJCs that do not. Slip Op. at 5. Conditions amounting to punishment include fines and imprisonment terms, whereas orders such as requiring defendant to obey the law or pay court costs do not represent punishment for this distinction. Here the court found no conditions amounting to punishment and rejected defendant’s argument that the trial court’s statement “that he hoped ‘both sides can have some peace and resolution in the matter’” represented an intention for the judgment to be final. Id. at 7. 

Turning to (2), the court noted that a sentence from a PJC must be entered “within a reasonable time” after the conviction, and looked to State v. Marino, 265 N.C. App. 546 (2019) for the considerations applicable to determining whether the sentence was entered in a reasonable time. Slip Op at 8-9. Here, the court noted the circumstances supported a finding of reasonableness, as (1) the State delayed its motion to pray judgment until defendant committed a second motor vehicle offense, (2) defendant tacitly consented to the delay by not objecting to the PJC and not asking for judgment to be entered, and (3) defendant could not show actual prejudice by the delay of entering a sentence. 

Judge Riggs dissented by separate opinion, and would have held that the delay divested the trial court of jurisdiction to enter the sentence. 

The petitioner was found guilty of simple assault in a bench trial before a district court judge, who entered a prayer for judgment continued (PJC). In reliance on the advice of his attorney, the petitioner, an insurance agent, did not believe that he was required to report the PJC to the North Carolina Department of Insurance (DOI). The DOI found that the petitioner’s failure to report the PJC violated G.S. 58-2-69(c), which requires licensees to notify the DOI of criminal convictions and defines conviction as including “an adjudication of guilt, a plea of guilty, or a plea of nolo contendere.” Because of his reliance on the advice of counsel, the DOI imposed a $100 civil penalty instead of suspending or revoking the petitioner’s license. The petitioner appealed. Reviewing several previous decisions about the treatment of PJCs, the Court of Appeals recognized that a PJC constitutes an adjudication of guilt and upheld the DOI’s determination.

In this drug trafficking case, G.S. 15A-1331.2 did not deprive the trial court of jurisdiction to enter judgment after a PJC. The defendant pled guilty pursuant to a plea arrangement that provided for a PJC to allow the defendant to provide testimony in another case. Approximately 19 months later, the State prayed for entry of judgment. After judgment was entered, the defendant unsuccessfully filed a motion for appropriate relief, asserting that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter the sentence because G.S. 15A-1331.2 requires the trial court to enter final judgment on certain high-level felonies, such as the one at issue here, within 12 months of the PJC. The court noted that the issue was one of first impression. It noted that the trial court’s judgment unquestionably failed to comply with the statute, which provides that if the trial court enters a PJC for a class D felony, it must include a condition that the State pray for judgment within a specific period of time not to exceed 12 months. Here, the plea agreement contained no such provision and, approximately 19 months after the defendant’s conviction, the State prayed for judgment and judgment was entered. Analyzing the issue as one of legislative intent, the court determined although the PJC failed to comply with the statute, this did not constitute a jurisdictional issue. The court went on to conclude that the trial court’s delay in sentencing the defendant was not unreasonable nor was the defendant prejudiced by it.

The court remanded for a determination of whether the trial court had jurisdiction to sentence the defendant more than a year after the date set for the PJC. 

When the trial court enters a PJC, there is no final judgment from which to appeal.

State v. Craven, 205 N.C. App. 393 (July 20, 2010) rev’d on other grounds, 367 N.C. 51 (Jun 27 2013)

The court had jurisdiction to enter judgment on a PJC. The defendant was indicted on August 7, 2006, and entered a guilty plea on January 22, 2007, when a PJC was entered, from term to term. Judgment was entered on March 13, 2009. Because the defendant never requested sentencing, he consented to continuation of sentencing and the two-year delay was not unreasonable.

State v. Popp, 197 N.C. App. 226 (May. 19, 2009)

The following conditions went beyond requirements to obey the law and transformed a PJC into a final judgment: abide by a curfew, complete high school, enroll in an institution of higher learning or join the armed forces, cooperate with random drug testing, complete 100 hours of community service, remain employed, and write a letter of apology.

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