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., 06/26/2024
E.g., 06/26/2024

In this Wake County case, the petitioner appealed from the trial court’s order requiring him to register as a sex offender in North Carolina based on his out-of-state conviction from New York. The Court of Appeals concluded that the petitioner is required to register as a sex offender in North Carolina and affirmed the trial court’s order.

The petitioner was convicted of attempted first-degree rape in New York in 1993. In 2022, after the petitioner moved to North Carolina, the Wake County Sheriff’s Office notified him that he was required to register as a sex offender based on the New York conviction. The petitioner filed for a judicial determination under G.S. 14-208.12B. The trial court concluded that the New York conviction was substantially similar to second-degree forcible rape under G.S. 14-27.22, and therefore required registration.

On appeal, the petitioner argued that his New York conviction was not substantially similar to a North Carolina crime requiring registration, because it was for an attempt, and thus not included within the definition of a reportable offense in North Carolina. The Court of Appeals concluded that substantial similarity was irrelevant. The New York conviction required registration in North Carolina based on the second pathway to reportability set out in G.S. 14-208.6(4)(b): that the offense requires registration under the law of the state of conviction. That pathway, initially enacted in 2006 and amended in 2010 to apply to all individuals with qualifying out-of-state convictions regardless of the date they move to North Carolina, applied to the petitioner. Therefore, because his attempted rape conviction required registration in New York, it requires registration here “independent of any substantial similarity analysis.” Slip op. at 8.

In this Guilford County case, defendant appealed the order requiring him to register a sex offender, arguing the federal statute he pleaded guilty under was not substantially similar to North Carolina’s statute. The Court of Appeals vacated the order and remanded to the trial court for a new hearing. 

In April of 2003, defendant pleaded guilty to violating 18 U.S.C. 2252(a)(4)(a) in Puerto Rico. Defendant completed his 40-month sentence and three years of supervised release. In October 2021, the Guilford County Sheriff's Office informed defendant he must register as a sex offender, and defendant filed a petition for a judicial determination of sex offender registration requirement. During the June 2022 hearing, the State offered a copy of defendant’s 2003 conviction along with a copy of the 2021 version of 18 U.S.C. 2252(a)(4)(a), arguing it was substantially similar to G.S. 14-190.17A(a), third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. The trial court ultimately ordered defendant to register, finding the statutes substantially similar. 

Taking up defendant’s argument, the Court of Appeals noted that “we have ‘consistently held that when evidence of the applicable law is not presented to the trial court, the party seeking a determination of substantial similarity has failed to meet its burden of establishing substantial similarity by a preponderance of the evidence.’” Slip Op. at 5, quoting State v. Sanders, 367 N.C. 716, 718 (2014). Here, the State did not offer any evidence related to the 2003 version of the federal statute or that the statute was unchanged since defendant’s plea. As a result, “[t]he State failed to provide to the trial court such evidence as to allow it to determine that 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(A) remained unchanged from 2003 to 2021 and that the federal statute is substantially similar to the North Carolina statute.” Id. at 6. This failure justified vacating the order and remanding for a new hearing. 

In this Cumberland County case, the defendant was convicted by a jury of second-degree rape and second-degree sexual offense against a victim named Tamara. The offenses were committed in 2011, but not successfully investigated until a DNA database match in 2017. During the trial, the trial judge allowed testimony by another woman, Kesha, who alleged that the defendant had previously raped her in 2009, for the purpose of proving the identity of the assailant in Tamara’s case. (1) The defendant argued on appeal that the trial court erred in admitting the prior act testimony from Kesha under N.C. R. Evid. 404(b). Reviewing for plain error, the Court of Appeals concluded that the overwhelming evidence of the defendant’s identity and guilt made it improbable that the jury would have reached a different result even if the evidence had been admitted in error—as it may have been given that the defendant’s identity was not necessarily in issue in the case (he did not claim an alibi), and the circumstances of the two rapes were not particularly similar. 

(2) The defendant also argued that the trial court erred by finding that his convictions under G.S. 14-27.3 and G.S. 14-27.5, the former statutes for second-degree rape and second-degree sexual offense, required sex offender registration, because those former statutes are not specifically listed in the current list of reportable offenses. Notwithstanding the State’s lack of a compelling argument on appeal, the Court of Appeals on its own found the effective date provision in the 2015 recodification act, which said that prosecutions for offenses committed before December 1, 2015 remain subject to the laws that would otherwise be applicable to those offenses, including the list of reportable convictions in the former version of G.S. 14-208.6(5). The trial court therefore did not err in ordering the defendant to register. 

(3) Finally, the defendant argued that the trial court erred by ordering him to enroll in satellite-based monitoring for life without conducting a full determination hearing. The Court of Appeals agreed. The State specifically elected not to proceed with the hearing during the sentencing phase, and the trial court thus erred by ordering SBM. The Court of Appeals vacated the SBM orders and remanded the issue for hearing.

The trial court did not err by requiring the defendant to report as a sex offender after he was convicted of sexual battery, a reportable conviction. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that because he had appealed his conviction, it was not yet final and thus did not trigger the reporting requirements.

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