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

Reversing the North Carolina courts, the Court held that under Jones and Jardines, satellite based monitoring for sex offenders constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment. The Court stated: “a State … conducts a search when it attaches a device to a person’s body, without consent, for the purpose of tracking that individual’s movements.” The Court rejected the reasoning of the state court below, which had relied on the fact that the monitoring program was “civil in nature” to conclude that no search occurred, explaining: “A building inspector who enters a home simply to ensure compliance with civil safety regulations has undoubtedly conducted a search under the Fourth Amendment.” The Court did not decide the “ultimate question of the program’s constitutionality” because the state courts had not assessed whether the search was reasonable. The Court remanded for further proceedings.

In this Rowan County case, defendant appealed the imposition of lifetime satellite-based monitoring (“SBM”) after his Alford plea to an aggravated sex offense. Defendant argued that the order imposing lifetime SBM violated the Fourth Amendment, as the United States Supreme Court held that SBM is a search subject to the Fourth Amendment in Grady v. North Carolina, 575 U.S. 306 (2015).

The Court of Appeals first took up defendant’s appeal in 2019, reversing the trial court’s order imposing SBM. After the first review of defendant’s case, the North Carolina Supreme Court remanded the case for reconsideration in light of State v. Grady, 372 N.C. 509 (2019). The Court of Appeals reviewed the case again in 2020, considering the relevant Grady precedent, and again reversed the trial court’s order imposing SBM.

After the second consideration of defendant’s case, the North Carolina General Assembly enacted changes to the SBM program in September of 2021; of note is defendant’s ability to petition for termination of SBM after 10 years. The North Carolina Supreme Court remanded defendant’s case a second time so that the Court of Appeals could consider relevant changes in statute and additional caselaw relevant to the SBM program, specifically State v. Hilton, 378 N.C. 692 (2021) and State v. Strudwick, 379 N.C. 94 (2021).

In the current opinion, the Court of Appeals considered the new structure of the SBM program and the three-step reasonableness analysis created by Hilton and Strudwick. The new reasonableness standard requires the court to weigh (1) an offender’s privacy interest, (2) SBM’s intrusion into the privacy of the offender, and (3) the State’s interest in monitoring a sex offender. Notably, the efficacy of SBM is not a factor in this analysis, and the analysis takes place in the present, not in the future when defendant is released from prison. Here, the Court of Appeals first determined that the State presented sufficient evidence to the trial court for it to make an adequate reasonableness determination. Then the court conducted a de novo review of the imposition of SBM and concluded that it was reasonable under the required analysis, upholding the trial court’s order.

Judge Hampson concurred only in the result.

State v. Blue, 246 N.C. App. 259 (Mar. 15, 2016)

(1) The court rejected the defendant’s argument that because SBM is a civil, regulatory scheme, it is subject to the Rules of Civil Procedure and that the trial court erred by failing to exercise discretion under Rule 62(d) to stay the SBM hearing. The court concluded that because Rule 62 applies to a stay of execution, it could not be used to stay the SBM hearing. (2) With respect to the defendant’s argument that SMB constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure, the trial court erred by failing to conduct the appropriate analysis. The trial court simply acknowledged that SBM constitutes a search and summarily concluded that the search was reasonable. As such it failed to determine, based on the totality of the circumstances, whether the search was reasonable. The court noted that on remand the State bears the burden of proving that the SBM search is reasonable. 

The trial court erred by failing to conduct the appropriate analysis with respect to the defendant’s argument that SMB constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure. The trial court simply acknowledged that SBM constitutes a search and summarily concluded that the search was reasonable. As such it failed to determine, based on the totality of the circumstances, whether the search was reasonable. The court noted that on remand the State bears the burden of proving that the SBM search is reasonable.

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