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., 10/18/2021
E.g., 10/18/2021

A Jones County deputy applied for a search warrant of defendant’s residence. In his affidavit in support, the deputy represented that he had observed drug transactions at the defendant’s residence. In fact, all the drug transactions had taken place away from the defendant’s home. The defendant was charged with marijuana offenses following execution of the search warrant and moved to suppress. He alleged the warrant lacked probable cause and sought a Franks hearing to establish false and misleading statements in the affidavit. The trial court first held a hearing on probable cause and determined it existed based on the allegations in the affidavit that a drug transaction had been observed on the defendant’s property. It then turned to the Franks issue and granted the defendant a hearing on the matter. The deputy-affiant testified that none of the buys occurred on the defendant’s property and that he was aware of this at the time he wrote the affidavit. The trial court denied the Franks motion as well, finding that the deputy’s statements were not false or misleading. The defendant pled guilty and appealed.

Where the defendant shows by a preponderance of evidence that false or misleading statements were intentionally made, or that such statements were made in reckless disregard of the truth, those portions of the affidavit must be excised from the affidavit. The affidavit will then be examined to determine whether the remaining portions establish probable cause. Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978). Here, the trial court’s findings at the Franks hearing were not supported by the evidence. In its initial ruling on the probable cause issue, “the trial court itself was misled by the statements in the affidavit.” Moore Slip op. at 16. In the words of the court:

Contrary to the trial court’s conclusion, [the officer’s] statements in his affidavit indicating that the alleged controlled drug buys and meetings between ‘Matt’ and the informant took place at 133 Harriet Ln. were false and his material omissions regarding the actual locations of the drug buys and meetings were misleading. Id. at 17.

Striking the false statements from the affidavit, the remainder of the allegations were insufficient to establish a nexus to the defendant’s residence supporting a finding of probable cause. They failed to establish that drugs were sold on or from the defendant’s residence and failed to allege any basis to believe the informant was reliable, among other deficiencies. The trial court’s order denying the motion to suppress was therefore reversed, the defendant’s plea vacated, and the matter remanded for further proceedings.

Judge Tyson dissented and would have affirmed the trial court.

The trial court did not err by denying the defendant’s motion to suppress which asserted that the search warrant in question was issued based on an affidavit containing false and misleading information. The court concluded that although not all of the statements in the affidavit are “entirely accurate,” the evidence supports some version of the challenged statements and the defendant has not met his burden to establish by a preponderance that the affiant made the statements in reckless disregard to the truth or in bad faith. Thus, the trial court did not err in denying the defendant’s motion to suppress.

(1) In this methamphetamine trafficking case, the trial court erred by denying the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence seized during execution of a search warrant. Noting that a factual showing sufficient to support probable cause “requires a truthful showing of facts,” the court rejected the defendant’s argument that a statement in the affidavit supporting the search warrant was made in reckless disregard for the truth. However, the court went on to find that the application for the search warrant and attached affidavit insufficiently connected the address in question to the objects sought. It noted that none of the allegations in the affidavit specifically refer to the address in question and none establish the required nexus between the objects sought (evidence of a methamphetamine lab) and the place to be searched. The court noted that the defendant’s refusal of an officer’s request to search the property cannot establish probable cause to search. (2) Although federal law recognizes a good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule where evidence is suppressed pursuant to the federal Constitution, no good faith exception exists for violations of the North Carolina Constitution.

In this child sex case, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that the affidavit was based on false and misleading information, concluding that to the extent the officer-affiant made mistakes in the affidavit, they did not result from false and misleading information and that the affidavit’s remaining content was sufficient to establish probable cause. 

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