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

(1) In this Franklin County case, the defendant was convicted of felony larceny pursuant to a breaking or entering, felony larceny of a firearm, firearm by felon, fleeing to elude, and armed robbery. The larceny pursuant to breaking or entering and larceny of a firearm occurred at the same time as a part of a continuous transaction and could not support separate convictions. Under the single taking rule, “a single larceny offense is committed when, as part of one continuous act or transaction, a perpetrator steals several items at the same time and place.” Posner Slip op. at 4. The State conceded this error, and the court remanded the for judgment to be arrested on one of the larceny counts. [Brittany Williams recently blogged about the single taking rule here.]

(2) The defendant also challenged the trial court’s calculation of his prior record level. The trial court included a point based on a prior 2012 conviction for possession of drug paraphernalia. When determining record level points, prior convictions are classified by the law in effect at the time the present offense was committed. In 2014, the legislature created the class 3 misdemeanor offense of possession of marijuana paraphernalia. The State conceded that the defendant’s paraphernalia 2012 conviction was for marijuana paraphernalia. The conviction therefore should not have counted under current law and the trial court erred in including this point.

The trial court also erred in part in assigning the defendant an additional record level point for having been previously convicted of offenses with “all of the elements of the present offense.” G.S. 15A-1340.14(b)(6). This point applied to the defendant based on his prior convictions for possession of firearm by felon and felony breaking and entering. The defendant had not previously been convicted of larceny of a firearm, fleeing to elude arrest, or armed robbery, however, and it was error to assign this record level point in the judgments for those offenses. Both errors were prejudicial, as they raised the defendant’s prior record level from a level IV to a level V. The matter was therefore remanded for resentencing as well.

No prejudicial error occurred with respect to the trial court’s finding that the defendant’s prior federal conviction of unlawful possession of a firearm was substantially similar to the North Carolina conviction of possession of a firearm by a felon, for purposes of assigning an extra point when all of the elements of the present offense are included in any prior offense for which the defendant has been convicted. Here, the extra point elevated the defendant from Level I to Level II. The defendant argued that the State failed to present evidence of substantial similarity. The court held that because the trial court’s finding was in fact correct, any error that occurred was harmless. In its holding the court concluded that a finding that an out-of-state offense is substantially similar to a North Carolina offense is sufficient for a finding that the elements of the present offense are included in any prior conviction under G.S. 1340.14(b)(6).

In calculating the defendant’s prior record level, the trial court erred by assigning an additional point on grounds that all the elements of the present offense were included in a prior offense. The defendant was found guilty of possession of a stolen vehicle. The court rejected the State’s argument that the defendant’s prior convictions for possession of stolen property and larceny of a motor vehicle were sufficient to support the additional point. The court noted that while those offenses are “similar to the present offense” neither contains all of its elements. Specifically, possession of a stolen vehicle requires that the stolen property be a motor vehicle, while possession of stolen property does not; larceny of a motor vehicle requires proof of asportation but not possession while possession of a stolen vehicle requires the reverse.

The trial court erred by assigning a PRL point under G.S. 15A-1340.14(b)(6) (one point if all the elements of the present offense are included in any prior offense). The trial court assigned the point because the defendant was convicted of felony speeding to elude (Class H felony) and had a prior conviction for that offense. However, the new felony speeding to elude conviction was consolidated with a conviction for assault with a deadly weapon on a governmental officer (AWDWOGO), a more serious offense (Class F felony). When offenses are consolidated, the most serious offense controls, here AWDWOGO. Analyzed in this fashion, all of the elements of AWDWOGO are not included in the prior felony speeding to elude conviction. The court rejected the State’s argument that because both felonies were elevated to Class C felonies under the habitual felon law, assignment of the prior record level was proper. 

Following Ford, discussed above, and holding that the trial court properly assigned a prior record level point based on the fact that all elements of the offense at issue−delivery of a controlled substance, cocaine−were included in a prior conviction for delivery of a controlled substance, marijuana. 

The defendant was convicted of attempted felony larceny and then pled guilty to being a habitual felon. The defendant previously had been convicted of felony larceny. That the judge properly found one point under G.S. 15A-1340.14(b)(6) (all elements of current offense are included in offense for which defendant was previously convicted) in calculating prior record level. Attempted felony larceny is a lesser-included offense of felony larceny regardless of the theory of felony larceny. It was irrelevant that the defendant’s prior felony larceny convictions did not include the element that the defendant took property valued over $1,000.

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