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., 02/22/2024
E.g., 02/22/2024

In this case involving the trial court’s imposition of lifetime satellite-based monitoring (SBM) following the defendant’s conviction for statutory rape of a child by an adult and other sex offenses, the North Carolina Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeals erred by allowing the defendant’s petition for writ of certiorari and invoking Rule 2 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure to review the defendant’s unpreserved challenge to the SBM orders.

The defendant was convicted of three counts of statutory rape of a child by an adult, two counts of statutory sex offense with a child, and three counts of taking indecent liberties with a child. The trial court held an SBM hearing and determined that all of the defendant’s offenses were sexually violent and involved the physical, mental, or sexual abuse of a minor. The trial court also found that the statutory rape and statutory sex offense convictions were aggravated offenses. For these convictions, the trial court ordered lifetime SBM pursuant to G.S. 14-208.40A(c). The defendant did not object to the imposition of SBM or file a written notice of appeal from the SBM orders; nevertheless, he later petitioned the Court of Appeals for certiorari review. A divided Court of Appeals granted certiorari and invoked Rule 2. It then held that the trial court failed to conduct a reasonableness hearing pursuant to State v. Grady, 372 N.C. 509 (2019), and vacated the SBM orders. 

The State appealed, and the North Carolina Supreme Court reversed, concluding that the Court of Appeals abused its discretion in granting review as the defendant’s petition failed to demonstrate the merit required for certiorari review and the defendant failed to demonstrate manifest injustice sufficient to invoke Rule 2. As to the merits, the Court reasoned that the trial court appropriately followed G.S. 14-208.40A(c) by imposing lifetime SBM because of the defendant’s status as an aggravated offender and that “[a]bsent an objection, the trial court was under no constitutional requirement to inquire into the reasonableness of imposing SBM.” The Court further concluded that the defendant was no different from other defendants who failed to preserve constitutional arguments and that the Court of Appeals therefore should have declined to invoke Rule 2. 

Justice Hudson, joined by Justices Ervin and Earls, dissented. Justice Hudson expressed her view that the Court of Appeals did not abuse its discretion in granting certiorari and invoking Rule 2, reasoning that at the time of the Court of Appeals’ decision the law arguably required that the State present evidence of reasonableness and that the trial court make findings of reasonableness to order lifetime SBM for defendants classified as aggravated offenders.

On appeal from a decision of a divided panel of the Court of Appeals, ___ N.C. App. ___, 813 S.E.2d 463 (2018), the court held that although the defendant failed to preserve his argument that the trial court erred by imposing lifetime SBM without determining whether the monitoring was a reasonable search under the Fourth Amendment, the Court of Appeals did not abuse its discretion by invoking Appellate Rule 2 to review the unpreserved constitutional issue. The Court of Appeals concluded that the defendant properly preserved the issue of whether his SBM was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment and that alternatively, if the defendant had failed to preserve the issue, it would invoke Rule 2 to relax Rule 10’s issue preservation requirement and review the claim on the merits. The Court of Appeals then vacated the SBM order without prejudice to the State’s ability to file a subsequent SBM application. The Supreme Court held that because the defendant failed to object to the SBM order on Fourth Amendment constitutional grounds with the requisite specificity, he waived the ability to raise that issue on appeal. However, the Court of Appeals did not abuse its discretion by invoking Appellate Rule 2 to review the unpreserved argument. In this respect the court found it significant that the State conceded that the trial court committed error relating to a substantial right.

The court per curiam affirmed a decision of a divided panel of the Court of Appeals, ___ N.C. App. ___, 817 S.E.2d 833 (2018), in which the court declined the defendant’s request to grant his petition for writ of certiorari to review the trial court’s order requiring him to enroll in lifetime SBM. The defendant argued that the trial court erred by ordering him to submit to SBM without first making a reasonableness determination as required by Grady. The defendant conceded that he failed to make his constitutional argument at trial and that his appeal from the SBM order was untimely.

The defendant failed to preserve for appellate review his claim that the trial court erred by requiring him to enroll in satellite-based monitoring (SBM). The defendant asserted that the State failed to meet its burden of proving that imposing SBM is reasonable under the fourth amendment. Because the defendant raised no fourth amendment objection at the SBM hearing and the issue was not implicitly addressed or ruled upon by the trial court, it was not preserved for appellate review. In its discretion, the court declined to grant review under Rule 2, reasoning that the law was well-established at the time of the hearing and the State was not on notice of the need to address Grady issues due to the defendant’s failure to raise the constitutional issue.

Because SBM hearings are civil proceedings, the defendant’s oral notice of appeal from an order requiring him to enroll in lifetime SBM was insufficient to give the court jurisdiction to hear his appeal. The court declined to grant the defendant’s request for writ of certiorari to review the issue, or to suspend the Rules of Appellate Procedure to reach the merits.

In this Columbus County case, defendant appealed the denial of his motion for relief from the order imposing lifetime Satellite-Based Monitoring (SBM) for his second-degree rape conviction. The Court of Appeals reversed the denial and remanded to the trial court. 

In August of 2021, the trial court entered an order imposing lifetime SBM on defendant after he completed his sentence for second-degree rape; defendant subsequently appealed the order. In September of 2021, the General Assembly amended the SBM statutes to alter the findings required to impose SBM and to allow an offender to petition for termination or modification if they were sentenced to a term of SBM longer than 10 years before December 1, 2021. After this amendment, defendant filed a motion under Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6) with the trial court to set aside the order imposing lifetime SBM, “arguing the change to the SBM law mere weeks after he was ordered to submit to a lifetime of SBM constituted an extraordinary circumstance warranting relief.” Slip Op. at 2. The trial court held a hearing on the motion, during which the judge expressed the opinion that the pending appeal removed jurisdiction from the trial court. However, in the written order denying the motion, the trial court included a conclusion of law that “Rule 60(b)(6) does not apply because extraordinary circumstances do not exist.” Id. at 4. 

Taking up the Rule 60(b) issue, the Court of Appeals found error in the conclusion that an appeal removed the trial court’s jurisdiction. The court explained that normally, an appeal removes the jurisdiction of the trial court, but there is an exception under Bell v. Martin, 43 N.C. App. 134 (1979), for Rule 60(b) motions. The Bellexception procedure allows the trial court to consider the Rule 60(b) motion and indicate on the record how it would rule:

Should the trial court indicate it would be in favor of granting the motion, the appellant would “be in position to move the appellate court to remand to the trial court for judgment on the motion.” If, on the other hand, the trial court indicated it would deny the motion, that indication “would be considered binding on that court and [the] appellant could then request appellate court review of the lower court’s action.”

Id. at 7, quoting Bell at 142 (cleaned up). Here, the trial court’s statements and order were “at odds with each other,” as it appeared the trial court did not think it had jurisdiction, but subsequently concluded that extraordinary circumstances did not exist to grant the Rule 60(b) motion. Id. at 9. This led the court to reverse and remand for a new hearing consistent with the Bell procedure. 

In this Catawba County case, the defendant pled guilty to five counts of indecent liberties with a minor in lieu of other related charges, including possession of child pornography and other sexual assaults on children. The State argued for the imposition of satellite-based monitoring (“SBM”), pointing to the factual bases for the pleas and a STATIC-99R assessment finding the defendant to be “Average Risk.” The trial court ordered the defendant to enroll in SBM for a term of ten years following his release from prison. The defendant sought certiorari review, arguing the trial court erred by ordering SBM, that the State failed to demonstrate that SBM was reasonable under State v. Grady, 372 N.C. 509 (2019), and that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to raise a constitutional challenge to the SBM order.

(1) In addition to the factual bases and the STATIC-99R, the trial court found that the defendant assaulted several children of both genders, that those children were between 6 and 14 years old, and that the defendant abused a position of trust to facilitate the assaults. These findings were supported by the evidence: “The unobjected to evidence, that Defendant admitted as part of his plea bargain, provides competent evidence to support [these] additional findings.” Blankenship Slip op. at 7. These findings and the STATIC-99R also supported a finding that the defendant “require[d] the highest possible level of supervision,” warranting imposition of SBM. Id. at 8. The trial court properly considered the context of the offenses, and the additional findings were related to the defendant’s likely recidivism and were not duplicative of the STATIC-99R. The trial court did not therefore err in ordering the defendant to enroll in SBM.

(2) The defendant did not object or raise any challenge to the imposition of SBM for a term at the time of the order. Any constitutional objection was therefore unpreserved: “The defendant did not raise a constitutional issue before the trial court, cannot raise it for the first time on appeal, and has waived this argument on appeal.” Id. at 13. The court declined to invoke Rule 2 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure to review the unpreserved issue and dismissed the claim.

(3) The court likewise rejected any alleged ineffective assistance of counsel claim in the SBM context: “Our Court has held ‘hearings on SBM eligibility are civil proceedings.’. . .[and ineffective assistance of counsel] claims are not available in civil appeals such as that form an SBM eligibility hearing.” Id. at 14. This claim was also dismissed, and the trial court’s judgments were unanimously affirmed.

A defendant’s appeal from a trial court’s order requiring enrollment in SBM for life is a civil matter. Thus, oral notice of appeal pursuant to N.C.R. App. P. 4(a)(1) is insufficient to confer jurisdiction on the court of appeals. Instead, a defendant must give notice of appeal pursuant to N.C.R. App. P. 3(a) as is proper “in a civil action or special proceeding[.]” For related cases, compare State v. Clayton, 206 N.C. App. 300 (Aug. 3, 2010) (following Brooks and treating the defendant’s brief as a petition for writ of certiorari and granted the petition to address the merits of his appeal); State v. Oxendine, 206 N.C. App. 205 (Aug. 3, 2010) (same); State v. Cowan, 207 N.C. App. 192 (Sept. 21, 2010) (same); State v. May, 207 N.C. App. 260 (Sept. 21, 2010) (same); State v. Williams, 207 N.C. App. 499 (Oct. 19, 2010) (same), with State v. Inman, 206 N.C. App. 324 (Aug. 3, 2010) (over a dissent, the court followed Brooks and held that because there was no written notice of appeal, it lacked jurisdiction to consider the defendant’s appeal from a trial court order requiring SBM enrollment; the court declined to treat the defendant’s appeal as a petition for writ of certiorari; the dissenting opinion would have treated the defendant’s appeal as a writ of certiorari and affirmed the trial court’s order.

Because a SBM order is a final judgment from the superior court, the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction to consider appeals from SBM monitoring determinations under G.S. 14-208.40B pursuant to G.S. 7A-27.

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