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., 06/29/2022
E.g., 06/29/2022
State v. Murchison, 367 N.C. 461 (June 12, 2014)

Reversing an unpublished decision of the court of appeals, the court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by basing its decision to revoke the defendant’s probation on hearsay evidence presented by the State. The court noted that under Rule 1101, the formal rules of evidence do not apply in probation revocation hearings.

The defendant in this case was on supervised probation for a conviction of possession with intent to sell or deliver methamphetamine. The defendant’s probation officer filed a violation report, alleging that the defendant had absconded from supervision and committed several other violations. The defendant waived counsel and testified at the hearing held on the violation; he admitted to absconding and committing the other violations, but also maintained that he had given his current address to his probation officer. The trial court found that the defendant had absconded and committed the other alleged violations, revoked his probation, and activated his sentence. The defendant filed a handwritten notice of appeal.

The appellate court first held that the notice of appeal was defective, but granted discretionary review and addressed the merits. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the state presented insufficient evidence of absconding, because the defendant admitted to it in his testimony and thereby waived the requirement that the state present sufficient evidence of the violation. Citing State v. Sellers, 185 N.C. App. 726 (2007), the court held that “when a defendant admits to willfully violating a condition of his or her probation in courtthe State does not need to present evidence to support the violations.” Defendant’s arguments that he did not understand the legal definition of absconding, had provided his probation officer with an address, and that the trial court should have conducted a more thorough examination of his admission, were unavailing given that the defendant “unequivocally and repeatedly admitted that he had absconded.” The court affirmed the revocation based on absconding, but remanded the judgment to correct three clerical errors regarding the name of the underlying offense of conviction, the total number of alleged violations, and an incorrect indication on the judgment form that the other violations besides absconding would also support revocation. The latter was deemed a clerical error because the transcript clearly indicated that the trial court’s revocation order was properly based only on the absconding violation, in accordance with G.S. 15A-1344(d2).

The defendant was on felony probation. During a traffic stop, a law enforcement officer found a pistol in the defendant’s car, which resulted in criminal charges for possession of firearm by a felon and carrying a concealed weapon and the filing of a probation violation report for committing new criminal offenses. In the trial for the new criminal charges, the judge denied the defendant’s motion to suppress the pistol, but the case nonetheless resulted in a mistrial. At the subsequent probation violation hearing, the court found that the defendant committed the alleged criminal offenses and revoked probation. After granting the defendant’s petition for writ of certiorari, the Court of Appeals rejected his argument that he was deprived of the right to confront and cross-examine the law enforcement officer at his probation violation hearing. The right to confront and cross-examine witnesses at a probation violation hearing as provided in G.S. 15A-1345(e) is grounded in a probationer’s Fourteenth Amendment due process rights, which are more flexible than his or her confrontation rights at trial under the Sixth Amendment. As such, the court held that the law enforcement officer’s testimony at the prior motion to suppress was competent evidence of the alleged violations, and that the trial court did not err by finding the new criminal offense violations despite the earlier mistrial. The defendant did not request findings for good cause as to why confrontation should not be allowed, and therefore no such findings were required. The Court of Appeals affirmed the revocation of probation but remanded the case for correction of a clerical error.

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