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., 09/22/2021
E.g., 09/22/2021

(1) There was sufficient evidence that a burglary occurred at nighttime. The defendant left his girlfriend’s apartment after 10 pm and did not return until 6 am the next day. The burglary occurred during that time period. After taking judicial notice of the time of civil twilight (5:47 am) and the driving distance between the victim’s residence and the apartment, the court concluded that it would have been impossible for the defendant to commit the crime after 5:47 am and be back at the apartment by 6 am. (2) When the victim’s laptop and other items were found in the defendant’s possession hours after the burglary, the doctrine of recent possession provided sufficient evidence that the defendant was the perpetrator.

Although the victim’s testimony tended to show that the crime did not occur at nighttime, there was sufficient evidence of this element where the victim called 911 at 5:42 am; she told police the attack occurred between 5:00 and 5:30 am; a crime scene technician testified that “it was still pretty dark” when she arrived, and she used a flashlight to take photographs; and the defendant stipulated to a record from the U.S. Naval Observatory showing that on the relevant date the sun did not rise until 6:44 am.

In this burglary case, the evidence was insufficient to establish that the defendants entered the premises where it showed that the defendants used landscaping bricks and a fire pit bowl to break a back window of the home but no evidence showed that any part of their bodies entered the home (no items inside the home were missing or had been tampered with) or that the instruments of breaking were used to commit an offense inside. 

An entering did not occur for purposes of burglary when the defendant used a shotgun to break a window, causing the end of the shotgun to enter the premises. The court reiterated that to constitute an entry some part of the defendant’s body must enter the premises or the defendant must insert into the premises some tool that is intended to be used to commit the felony or larceny therein (such as a hook to grab an item).

The evidence was sufficient to convict the defendant of felony breaking or entering. After detaining the defendant for larceny, a Belk loss prevention associate entered the defendant’s name in a store database. The associate found an entry for the defendant’s name at Belk Store #329 in Charlotte, along with a photograph that resembled the defendant and an address and date of birth that matched those listed on his driver’s license. The database indicated that, as of 14 November 2015, the defendant had been banned from Belk stores for a period of 50 years pursuant to a Notice of Prohibited Entry following an encounter at the Charlotte store. The notice contained the defendant’s signature. On appeal, the defendant argued that the evidence was insufficient because it showed he entered a public area of the store during regular business hours. Deciding an issue of first impression, the court disagreed. In order for an entry to be unlawful, it must be without the owner’s consent. Here, Belk did not consent to the defendant’s entry. It had issued a Notice expressly prohibiting him “from re-entering the premise[s] of any property or facility under the control and ownership of Belk wherever located” for a period of 50 years. The loss prevention associate testified that the Notice had not been rescinded, that no one expressly allowed the defendant to return to store property, and that no one gave the defendant permission to enter the store on the date in question.

The evidence was sufficient to support a conviction for misdemeanor breaking or entering. Although the defendant had consent to enter the home’s garage, he did not have consent to enter the residence itself, which he did by breaking down a door. 

The defendant did not have implied consent to enter an office within a video store. Even if the defendant had implied consent to enter the office, his act of theft therein rendered that implied consent void ab initio.

Reversing the decision below, State v. Campbell, 234 N.C. App. 551 (2014), the court held that the State presented sufficient evidence of the defendant’s intent to commit larceny in a place of worship to support his conviction for felonious breaking or entering that facility. The evidence showed that the defendant unlawfully broke and entered the church; he did not have permission to be there and could not remember what he did while there; and the church’s Pastor found the defendant’s wallet near the place where some of the missing items previously had been stored. 

At approximately 1:00 a.m. on January 1, 2018, the defendant woke Mr. and Mrs. Ridenhour by loudly banging on the front door of their residence. Mr. Ridenhour, thinking a neighbor was at the door, went to the front door and flipped the deadbolt. The defendant violently pushed the front door open, knocking Mr. Ridenhour backwards. The defendant entered the house and began beating Mr. Ridenhour, who shouted for his wife to call the police and grab his pistol. The defendant struck Mr. Ridenhour multiple times, causing him to fall down a flight of stairs and knocking him unconscious. Mrs. Ridenhour entered the hall, pointed a gun at the defendant, and told him to leave. The defendant then left the house, and Mr. Ridenhour regained consciousness and locked the door. The defendant briefly walked in the front yard but returned and began banging on the front door again. Caldwell County Sheriff’s Deputies arrived at the scene and detained the defendant at the front door. The defendant was indicted for first-degree burglary and the lesser included offense of felonious breaking and entering.

During a bench trial, the defendant twice moved to dismiss, arguing that the State had not presented sufficient evidence of his intent to commit an underlying felony when he entered the Ridenhour house, as required for first-degree burglary. The trial court denied both motions. In a subsequent charge conference, the trial court stated it was considering larceny, attempted murder, and a violation of G.S. 14-54(a1) (breaking or entering a building with intent to terrorize or injure an occupant) as potential underlying felonies for the first-degree burglary charge. However, the trial court, as finder of fact, convicted the defendant of first-degree burglary solely on the basis of G.S. 14-54(a1), stating that “the defendant . . . committed first-degree burglary by committing the felony of [G.S. 14-54(a1)] when he broke and entered into the building with the intent to terrorize and injure the occupant, because that’s what happened.” Slip op. at 5.

On appeal, the defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence, specifically arguing that G.S. 14-54(a1) cannot be an underlying felony for first-degree burglary because “grammatically and logically, the initial breaking and entering must be distinct from the crime which a burglar subsequently intends to commit therein.” Slip op. at 6. The Court of Appeals agreed with the defendant, reasoning that “for G.S. 14-54(a1) to satisfy the felonious intent element of first-degree burglary, a defendant must (1) break and enter a dwelling (2) with the intent to therein (3) break or enter a building (4) with the intent to terrorize or injure an occupant” Slip op. at 8–9. (emphasis in original). The Court held that sufficient evidence was not presented to support the inference that the defendant broke and entered the Ridenhours’ residence with the intent to subsequently break or enter another building within the residence and therein terrorize the Ridenhours and as a result, the defendant’s motion to dismiss should have been granted. Moreover, the Court explained that in determining that the first-degree burglary charge was only supported by the defendant’s intent to violate G.S. 14-54(a1), the trial court acquitted the defendant of the other potential underlying felonies, including attempted murder, assault inflicting serious bodily injury, and larceny. The Court reversed the defendant’s first-degree burglary conviction and remanded for entry of judgment for misdemeanor breaking or entering, a lesser included offense that does not require proof of intent to commit an underlying felony.

The evidence was sufficient to convict the defendant of felony breaking or entering a building. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the evidence showed only his presence at the scene, noting, among other things, that responding to a possible break-in, officers found the defendant scaling a 10-foot brick wall near the barn. The court also found that the evidence was sufficient to support an inference that the defendant intended to commit a larceny when he entered the barn, noting, among other things, that items had been removed from the barn and placed in the fenced in area around it. 

State v. Mims, 241 N.C. App. 611 (June 16, 2015)

(1) The evidence was sufficient to support a conviction for attempted first-degree burglary. In this case, which involved an attempted entry into a home in the wee hours of the morning, the defendant argued that the State presented insufficient evidence of his intent to commit a larceny in the premises. The court concluded that the case was controlled by State v. McBryde, 97 N.C. 393 (1887), and that because there was no evidence that the defendant’s attempt to break into the home was for a purpose other than to commit larceny, it could be inferred that the defendant intended to enter to commit a larceny inside. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the evidence suggested that he was trying to enter the residence to seek assistance or was searching for someone. (2) Applying the McBryde inference to an attempted breaking or entering that occurred during daylights hours, the court held that the evidence was sufficient to support a conviction for that offense.

In this burglary case, the evidence was sufficient to establish that the defendants intended to commit a felony or larceny in the home. Among other things, an eyewitness testified that the defendants were “casing” the neighborhood at night. Additionally, absent evidence of other intent or explanation for a breaking and entering at night, the jury may infer that the defendant intended to steal. 

In a first-degree burglary case, the evidence was insufficient to establish that the defendant broke and entered an apartment with the intent to commit a felonious restraint inside. Felonious restraint requires that the defendant transport the person by motor vehicle or other conveyance. The evidence showed that the defendant left his car running when he entered the apartment, found the victim, pulled her to the vehicle and drove off. The court reasoned: “In view of the fact that the only vehicle in which Defendant could have intended to transport [the victim] was outside in a parking lot, the record provides no indication Defendant could have possibly intended to commit the offense of felonious restraint against [the victim] within the confines of [the] apartment structure . . . .” The court rejected the State’s argument that the intent to commit a felony within the premises exists as long as the defendant commits any element of the intended offense inside.

Evidence of missing items after a breaking or entering can be sufficient to prove the defendant’s intent to commit a larceny therein, raising the offense to a felony. When such evidence is presented, the trial court need not instruct on the lesser offense of misdemeanor breaking or entering.

The evidence was insufficient to establish that the defendant intended to commit a larceny in the vehicle. The evidence suggested that the defendant’s only intent was to show another how to break glass using a spark plug and that the two left without taking anything once the vehicle’s glass was broken.

The evidence was sufficient to establish that the defendant intended to commit a felony assault inside the dwelling. Upon entering the residence, carrying an axe, the defendant asked where the victim was and upon locating her, assaulted her with the axe.

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