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., 11/30/2023
E.g., 11/30/2023

In this Craven County case, defendant was convicted of possession of a firearm by a felon, resisting a public officer, injury to personal property, and going armed to the terror of the public for defendant’s actions in an apartment complex parking lot. On appeal, the Court of Appeals determined that the trial court lacked jurisdiction for the charge of going armed to the terror of the public because the indictment did not allege the acts supporting the conviction occurred on a public highway.

The court first established the four essential elements of going armed to the terror of the public, which are “(1) armed with unusual and dangerous weapons, (2) for the unlawful purpose of terrorizing the people of the named county, (3) by going about the public highways of the county, (4) in a manner to cause terror to the people.” Slip Op. at ¶ 7 (quoting State v. Staten, 32 N.C. App. 495, 497 (1977)). The court then examined the common law history of going armed to the terror of the public, explaining that historically “a defendant could commit the crime of ‘going armed to the terror of the public’ in any location that the public is likely to be exposed to his acts, even if committed on privately-owned property.” Slip Op at ¶ 8.

Despite the common law interpretation of the crime, the court determined that the Staten requirement of an act on a “public highway” represented controlling precedent, and no North Carolina Supreme Court case had examined the public highway issue since Staten. After confirming that an act on a public highway was an essential element of the crime, the court found that the parking lot of a private apartment complex was not a “public highway” for purposes of going armed to the terror of the public.

Judge Griffin concurred in part and dissented in part with a separate opinion.

In this case involving convictions for first-degree kidnapping and misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon, among other offenses, the State presented sufficient evidence of the offenses and the trial court did not err by denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss on that basis.  With regard to the kidnapping conviction, the defendant argued that the State failed to present substantial evidence the defendant’s purpose was to terrorize the victim.  Recounting evidence that the defendant hid in the backseat of the victim’s car holding a knife while he waited for her to get off work, forced her to remain in the car and drive by choking her and threatening her with the knife, and forcefully struck her on the head when she attempted to scream for help, the court rejected this argument and bolstered its position by describing her frantic efforts to escape. 

The court also found sufficient evidence of misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon under both the show of violence theory of assault and the act or attempt to do injury to another theory of assault.  The State’s evidence tended to show that after two men scuffled with the defendant in an attempt to aid the victim, the defendant jumped into the driver’s seat of the victim’s car and attempted to run the men over and nearly did so.  This was sufficient evidence of assault under either theory.

State v. Starr, 209 N.C. App. 106 (Jan. 4, 2011) aff'd on other grounds, 364 N.C. 314 (Dec 9 2011)

In a case involving assault on a firefighter with a firearm, there was sufficient evidence that the defendant committed an assault. To constitute an assault, it is not necessary that the victim be placed in fear; it is enough if the act was sufficientto put a person of reasonable firmness in apprehension of immediate bodily harm. “It is an assault, without regard to the aggressor's intention, to fire a gun at another or in the direction in which he is standing.” Here, the defendant shot twice at his door while firefighters were attempting to force it open and fired again in the direction of the firefighters after they forced entry. The defendant knew that people were outside the door and shot the door to send a warning.

Assault is not a lesser-included offense of sexual battery.

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