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., 02/25/2024
E.g., 02/25/2024

In this Union County case, defendant appealed his convictions, arguing error in denying his motion to dismiss either the larceny or obtaining property by false pretenses charge under the single taking rule. The Court of Appeals found no error. 

In December of 2018, Defendant and two associates were captured on surveillance video at a Wal-Mart, using an empty child car seat box and a plastic bin to remove several thousand dollars’ worth of electronics from a display case. As a part of the scheme to remove the property, defendant and his associates purchased the car seat through a self-checkout line for $89, instead of the true value of the electronics hidden inside. At trial, defendant moved to dismiss the charges against him, a motion the trial court denied. The trial court instructed the jury on felony larceny, conspiracy to commit felony larceny, and obtaining property by false pretenses, and the jury convicted defendant of all three, as well as habitual felony status. 

The Court of Appeals first explained that the single taking rule prevents a defendant from being charged multiple times in a single transaction. However, the court noted that “in each of the cases upon which Defendant relies. . . the defendant was charged with either larceny offenses or obtaining property by false pretenses, but not both.” Slip Op. at 7. Previous decisions established that larceny and obtaining property by false pretenses are separate offenses with different elements; in particular, false and deceptive representation is not an element of larceny. As a result, defendant’s apparent purchase of a car seat, when he was actually hiding thousands of dollars of electronics inside, represented a distinguishable offense from larceny, and was not a duplicative charge. 

The court also considered defendant’s argument under State v. Speckman, 326 N.C. 576 (1990), that G.S. 14-100(a) requires the trial court to present larceny and obtaining property by false pretenses as mutually exclusive options for conviction. The court rejected this argument, noting that the crime in question for Speckman was embezzlement, which requires first obtaining property lawfully before wrongfully converting it, making it mutually exclusive from obtaining property by false pretenses. Unlike embezzlement, the court explained that “[t]he offenses of larceny and obtaining property by false pretenses are not mutually exclusive, neither in their elements. . . nor as alleged in the instant indictments.” Slip Op. at 11-12. 

(1) In this Franklin County case, the defendant was convicted of felony larceny pursuant to a breaking or entering, felony larceny of a firearm, firearm by felon, fleeing to elude, and armed robbery. The larceny pursuant to breaking or entering and larceny of a firearm occurred at the same time as a part of a continuous transaction and could not support separate convictions. Under the single taking rule, “a single larceny offense is committed when, as part of one continuous act or transaction, a perpetrator steals several items at the same time and place.” Posner Slip op. at 4. The State conceded this error, and the court remanded the for judgment to be arrested on one of the larceny counts. [Brittany Williams recently blogged about the single taking rule here.]

(2) The defendant also challenged the trial court’s calculation of his prior record level. The trial court included a point based on a prior 2012 conviction for possession of drug paraphernalia. When determining record level points, prior convictions are classified by the law in effect at the time the present offense was committed. In 2014, the legislature created the class 3 misdemeanor offense of possession of marijuana paraphernalia. The State conceded that the defendant’s paraphernalia 2012 conviction was for marijuana paraphernalia. The conviction therefore should not have counted under current law and the trial court erred in including this point.

The trial court also erred in part in assigning the defendant an additional record level point for having been previously convicted of offenses with “all of the elements of the present offense.” G.S. 15A-1340.14(b)(6). This point applied to the defendant based on his prior convictions for possession of firearm by felon and felony breaking and entering. The defendant had not previously been convicted of larceny of a firearm, fleeing to elude arrest, or armed robbery, however, and it was error to assign this record level point in the judgments for those offenses. Both errors were prejudicial, as they raised the defendant’s prior record level from a level IV to a level V. The matter was therefore remanded for resentencing as well.

State v. Forte, ___ N.C. App. ___, 817 S.E.2d 764 (July 3, 2018) review granted, 371 N.C. 779 (Dec 5 2018)

The State conceded and the Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred by entering judgment for eight counts of felony larceny where all of the property was stolen in a single transaction. The court thus vacated seven of the convictions.

The court rejected the defendant’s argument that one of the larceny convictions had to be arrested because both occurred as part of a single continuous transaction. The court reasoned that where the takings were from two separate victims, the evidence supported two convictions.

The trial court erred by sentencing the defendant for both felony larceny and felony possession of stolen goods when both convictions were based on the same items.

The trial court erred by sentencing the defendant for both larceny from the person and larceny of goods worth more than $1,000 based on a single larceny. Larceny from the person and larceny of goods worth more than $1,000 are not separate offenses, but alternative ways to establish that a larceny is a Class H felony. While it is proper to indict a defendant on alternative theories of felony larceny and allow the jury to determine guilt as to each theory, where there is only one larceny, judgment may only be entered for one larceny.

A defendant may not be convicted of both felony larceny and felonious possession of the same goods.

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