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., 07/20/2024
E.g., 07/20/2024

The defendant was placed on probation in district court pursuant to a formal deferred prosecution agreement under G.S. 15A-1341(a1). A district court judge found him in violation and revoked his deferred prosecution probation. The defendant appealed to superior court for a de novo violation hearing, but a superior court judge dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The court of appeals affirmed the dismissal, concluding that there is no statutory right to appeal a revocation of probation in the deferred prosecution context, as that revocation does not “activate[] a sentence” within the meaning of G.S. 15A-1347(a). The court noted that the superior court could, in some cases, review district court revocations of deferred prosecution probation through its authority to issue writs of certiorari under Rule 19 of the General Rules of Practice for the Superior and District Courts.

State v. Pennell, 367 N.C. 466 (June 12, 2014)

Reversing the court of appeals, the court held that on direct appeal from the activation of a suspended sentence, a defendant may not challenge the jurisdictional validity of the indictment underlying his original conviction. The court reasoned that a challenge to the validity of the original judgment constitutes an impermissible collateral attack. It explained:

[D]efendant failed to appeal from his original judgment. He may not now appeal the matter collaterally via a proceeding contesting the activation of the sentence imposed in the original judgment. As such, defendant’s present challenge to the validity of his original conviction is improper. Because a jurisdictional challenge may only be raised when an appeal is otherwise proper, we hold that a defendant may not challenge the jurisdiction over the original conviction in an appeal from the order revoking his probation and activating his sentence. The proper procedure through which defendant may challenge the facial validity of the original indictment is by filing a motion for appropriate relief under [G.S.] 15A-1415(b) or petitioning for a writ of habeas corpus. Our holding here does not prejudice defendant from pursuing these avenues.

Slip Op. at 9-10 (footnote and citation omitted).

In this Buncombe County case, defendant appealed an order revoking his probation, arguing the trial court failed to make a finding of good cause to revoke his probation along with other errors. The Court of Appeals agreed with defendant and vacated the trial court’s judgment without remand.  

Defendant’s probation was revoked at a hearing held 700 days after the expiration of his probation term. The court noted that “the trial court failed to find good cause to revoke probation after the expiration of the probation period as required by [G.S.] 15A-1344(f)(3).” Slip Op. at 2. Subsection (f)(3) requires a finding of good cause to support the trial court’s jurisdiction to revoke probation; here, the record did not show any findings supporting good cause. Considering the appropriate remedy, the court applied State v. Sasek, 271 N.C. App. 568 (2020), holding that where no evidence in the record supports a finding of “reasonable efforts” by the state to hold a revocation hearing sooner, the appropriate remedy for failure to make findings of good cause under G.S. 15A-1344(f)(3) is vacating the judgment without remand. Slip Op. at 4. 

In this Caldwell County case, the Court of Appeals denied the state’s motion to dismiss defendant’s appeal as untimely, but found no error with the trial court’s decision to revoke defendant’s probation for violations related to a search of his truck.

In May of 2020, defendant was pulled over after sheriff’s deputies observed him cross the center line while driving 55 mph in a 35 mph zone. During the traffic stop, the deputies determined that defendant was on probation for manufacturing methamphetamine and possessing stolen goods, and was subject to warrantless searches. The deputies searched defendant and his truck, finding a shotgun, smoking pipes and a baggie containing methamphetamine. Defendant’s probation officer filed violation reports with the trial court; the trial court subsequently revoked defendant’s probation and activated his sentences, leading to defendant’s appeal.

The Court of Appeals first reviewed the state’s motion to dismiss defendant’s appeal as untimely, applying State v. Oates, 366 N.C. 264 (2012), as controlling precedent for criminal appeals. Slip Op. at 7-8. The court explained that Rule of Appellate Procedure 4 requires an appeal to be filed either (1) orally at the time of trial, or (2) in writing within 14 days of the entry of the judgment or order. In the present case, the trial court announced its decision to revoke defendant’s probation on April 30, 2021, but did not enter an order until May 24, 2021, a delayed entry similar to the circumstances in Oates. Defendant filed a written notice of appeal on May 25, 2021, easily satisfying the 14-day requirement.

Turning to the substance of defendant’s appeal, the court noted that the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment protections and formal rules of evidence do not apply in a probation revocation hearing. Id. at 9. As a result, defendant’s arguments that the evidence obtained by searching his truck should have been suppressed were invalid, and the trial court did not err by using this evidence as the basis for revocation of his probation.

Judge Jackson concurred in part A, the denial of state’s motion to dismiss, but concurred only in the result as to part B, the evidence found in defendant’s truck. Id. at 10.

The court declined to consider the defendant’s argument that the trial court had no jurisdiction to revoke his probation because the sentencing court failed to make findings supporting a probation term of more than 30 months. It reasoned that a defendant cannot re-litigate the legality of a condition of probation unless he or she raises the issue no later than the hearing at which his probation is revoked.

A defendant may not challenge the validity of an indictment in an appeal challenging revocation of probation. In such circumstances, challenging the validity of the original judgment is an impermissible collateral attack. 

State v. Long, 220 N.C. App. 139 (Apr. 17, 2012)

On appeal from judgment revoking probation, the defendant could not challenge the trial court’s jurisdiction to enter the original judgment as this constituted an impermissible collateral attack on the original judgment. 

Defendant had no right to appeal from the trial court’s orders modifying the terms of his probation and imposing Confinement in Response to Violation. For a discussion of this case, see my colleague’s blog post here.

Over a dissent, the court dismissed as moot the defendant’s appeal from a judgment revoking his probation and activating his suspended sentence. After finding that the defendant was not at home during a mandatory curfew on two occasions, that these absences constituted willful violations of probation, and that the violations constituted absconding, the trial court revoked the defendant’s probation and activated his suspended sentence. The defendant appealed. The case was before the appellate court on writ of certiorari. The State conceded that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to revoke the defendant’s probation under the Justice Reinvestment Act because the underlying offenses occurred prior to December 1, 2011. The State argued however that the appeal was moot because the defendant had served his time. The defendant countered, arguing that he may suffer collateral consequences as a result of the trial court’s alleged error if he is subsequently convicted of a new crime. Specifically, he noted that under North Carolina law, an aggravating sentencing factor may be found when the defendant previously has been found in willful violation of probation. The court rejected this argument, noting that the defendant made no assertion that the trial court erred in finding him in willful violation of probation, the factor that triggers application of the aggravating factor. Rather, the defendant only argued that the trial court erred in revoking his probation based on application of the Justice Reinvestment Act, which did not take effect until after he violated his probation. However, the fact that the defendant’s probation was revoked does not in itself trigger application of the aggravating factor. The only part of the trial court’s judgment which could have any future detrimental effect is the finding that the defendant was in willful violation of probation, a finding he did not challenge. Here, the trial court acted within its authority in entering its finding of willfulness. Specifically, the court stated: “the conditions of Defendant’s probation included a mandatory curfew; Defendant was cited for violating this curfew; the trial court had the jurisdiction to hold its hearing to consider Defendant’s violation; and the trial court found that Defendant violated his curfew and that the violation was willful. Therefore, since Defendant will not suffer future collateral consequences stemming from the trial court’s error in revoking his probation, we conclude that Defendant’s appeal is moot.”

The court held that it had no authority to consider the defendant’s challenge to the trial court’s imposition of a special condition of probation. 

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