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 this probation revocation case from Buncombe County, the defendant failed to contact his probation officer for nearly three months until his arrest. After more than month of not being able to contact the defendant, the probation officer filed a violation report accusing him of absconding and other violations. The absconding violation alleged that the defendant failed to report to the probation office, failed to return his probation officer’s calls, failed to provide his current address, failed to make himself available for supervision, and noted that the last in-person contact with the defendant was more than a month ago. The defendant represented himself at hearing, admitted the violations, and was revoked. At the Court of Appeals, a divided panel affirmed the revocation (summarized here). A dissenting judge there would have held that the violation report did not sufficiently plead absconding and that the State’s evidence was insufficient to establish willful absconding. The defendant appealed based on the dissent, and the North Carolina Supreme Court affirmed.

The Court found that the defendant had adequate notice that he was accused of absconding probation. The allegation of violation need only describe the defendant’s conduct in violating probation and need not state the condition of probation violated by the conduct. The allegations here described the defendant’s conduct with appropriate specificity. That the conduct described in the absconding violation also violated regular, non-revocable conditions of probation did not render the allegation improper—an argument the Court called “meritless.” Crompton Slip op. at 12. The defendant’s admission to absconding at the hearing and argument to the trial judge to run his suspended sentences concurrent further demonstrated that the defendant had effective notice of the allegations. In the words of the Court:

[The] defendant here was sufficiently and properly informed by the probation violation reports of his alleged violations and his alleged conduct which constituted the alleged violations, including the alleged absconding behavior which defendant admitted. Id. at 13.

The trial court therefore did not abuse its discretion in revoking the defendant’s probation.

Justice Earls dissented. She would have found that the violation report only alleged violations of regular, non-revocable conditions of probation and that the defendant only admitted to as much.

State v. Moore, 370 N.C. 338 (Dec. 8, 2017)

On appeal from a divided panel of the Court of Appeals, ___ N.C. App. ___, 795 S.E.2d 598 (2016), the court modified and affirmed the decision below, holding that the defendant received adequate notice of his probation revocation hearing pursuant to G.S. 15A-1345(e). The trial court revoked the defendant’s probation for violating the condition that he commit no criminal offenses, specifically fleeing to allude arrest and no operator’s license. On appeal, the defendant argued that because the probation violation reports did not specifically list the “commit no criminal offense” condition as the condition violated, the statutory notice requirement was not satisfied. The court determined that the issue was one of first impression. The statute requires that the State give the probationer notice of the hearing and its purpose, including a statement of the violations alleged. The words “violation” and “violations” as used in the statute refer to violations of conditions of probation. It follows that the phrase “statement of the violations alleged” refers to a statement of what the probationer did to violate his conditions of probation. It does not require a statement of the underlying conditions that were violated. The court also overruled post-Justice Reinvestment Act cases decided by the Court of Appeals that had created a different notice requirement. Here, the State sought to prove that the defendant had violated the condition that he commit no criminal offense. Thus, the notice needed to contain a statement of the actions the defendant allegedly took that constituted a violation of the probation— that is, a statement of what the defendant actually did that violated a probation condition. The defendant received proper notice when the violation report named the specific offenses that the defendant was alleged to have committed, listing his pending criminal charges. 

In this Forsyth County case, defendant appealed the revocation of his probation, arguing (1) he did not receive notice that his probation could be revoked at the hearing, and (2) that the State did not prove he committed a new criminal offense. The Court of Appeals disagreed, finding no error. 

While on probation for 15 counts of third-degree exploitation of a minor, defendant admitted to looking at child abusive materials during a group therapy session. This led to an investigation by defendant’s probation officer; defendant eventually admitted to looking at child pornography on his girlfriend’s phone. The probation officer filed a report, and the matter came for a hearing in September 2022, where defendant’s probation was revoked and his sentence was activated.

Taking up (1), the Court of Appeals rejected defendant’s argument that he was not given adequate notice that his probation could be revoked at the hearing. Here, the report filed by defendant’s probation officer described conduct that could be criminal, specifically viewing child pornography. Although the report did not explicitly allege defendant violated probation by committing this criminal offense, the court explained that “[t]he Report’s description of Defendant’s alleged behavior was sufficient to give Defendant notice of possible probation revocation.” Slip Op. at 8. 

Considering (2), the court explained that while the trial court did not explicitly reference the new crime that defendant committed (third-degree exploitation of a minor), the evidence admitted at the hearing was sufficient to support the trial court’s determination that defendant committed the offense when revoking his probation. The court noted that defendant’s admissions, along with the evidence gathered from his girlfriend’s phone, were sufficient to support the conclusion that defendant “possessed material containing a visual representation of a minor engaging in sexual activity and committed third-degree exploitation of a minor.” Id. at 11. 

Judge Collins concurred in the result only.

The trial court lacked jurisdiction to conduct a probation revocation hearing because the defendant was not provided with adequate notice, including a written statement of the violations alleged. The trial court revoked the defendant’s probation after the defendant made multiple repeated objections to probation. The court rejected the State’s argument that the defendant waived her right to statutory notice by voluntarily appearing before the court and participating in the revocation hearing. Because the defendant was not provided with prior statutory notice of the alleged violations, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to revoke probation. The court went on to note that the trial court is not without recourse to compel a recalcitrant defendant in these circumstances. The violation report could have been filed and an arrest warrant could have been issued to provide the defendant with proper notice. Alternatively, the trial court could have found the defendant in contempt of court. And, regardless of the defendant’s statements and protests, the trial court could have simply ordered the defendant to be accompanied by a law enforcement or probation officer to register and implement probation supervision.

State v. Knox, 239 N.C. App. 430 (Feb. 17, 2015)

Where counsel stated at the revocation hearing that defendant acknowledged that he had received a probation violation report and admitted the allegations in the report and defendant appeared and participated in the hearing voluntarily, the defendant waived the notice requirement of G.S. 15A-1345(e). 

A probation violation report provided the defendant with adequate notice that the State intended to revoke his probation on the basis of a new criminal offense. The report alleged that the defendant violated the condition that he commit no criminal offense in that he had several new pending charges which were specifically identified. The report further stated that “If the defendant is convicted of any of the charges it will be a violation of his current probation.” 

Although the probation report might have been ambiguous regarding the condition allegedly violated, because the report set forth the specific facts at issue (later established at the revocation hearing), the report gave the defendant sufficient notice of the alleged violation, as required by G.S. 15A-1345(e). The State presented sufficient evidence that the defendant violated a special condition of probation requiring compliance with the rules of intensive probation. The State’s evidence included testimony by probation officers that they informed the defendant of his curfew and their need to communicate with him during curfew checks, and that compliance with curfew meant that the defendant could not be intoxicated in his home. During a curfew check, the defendant was so drunk that he could not walk; later that evening the defendant was drunk and disruptive, to the extent that his girlfriend was afraid to enter the residence.

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