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., 06/29/2024
E.g., 06/29/2024

The defendant was charged with felony breaking or entering a pickup truck that was parked overnight at a business. The trial record did not include any evidence that the truck contained an item of even trivial value, and there was no evidence that anything had been taken from inside. In responding to the defendant’s motion to dismiss at trial, the State did not address the element of “goods, wares, freight, or other thing of value,” nor did the State argue that the evidence presented was sufficient to support that element. The Court of Appeals held there was insufficient evidence that the motor vehicle contained “goods, wares, freight, or other thing of value” and reversed the defendant’s conviction for felony breaking or entering a motor vehicle.

The trial court did not commit plain error by failing to instruct the jury on first-degree trespass as a lesser-included of breaking or entering a motor vehicle. Although the defendant argued that he may have broken into the vehicle in order to sleep and thus lacked the intent to commit a larceny therein, no evidence supported that argument.

(1) When an indictment charging breaking or entering into a motor vehicle alleged that the defendant broke and entered the vehicle, the trial court did not err by instructing the jury that it could find the defendant guilty if he broke or entered the vehicle. The statute required only a breaking or entering, not both. (2) There was sufficient evidence to establish that either the defendant or his accomplice entered the vehicle where among other things, the defendant was caught standing near the vehicle with its door open, there was no pollen inside the vehicle although the outside of the car was covered in pollen, the owner testified that the door was not opened the previous day, and the defendant and his accomplice each testified that the other opened the door. (3) There was sufficient evidence that the defendant broke into the vehicle “with intent to commit any felony or larceny therein." Citing prior case law, the court held that the intent to steal the motor vehicle itself may satisfy the intent element.

The trial court erred by denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss charges of breaking or entering a boat where the State failed to present evidence that the boats contained items of value. Although even trivial items can satisfy this element, here the record was devoid of any evidence of items of value. The batteries did not count because they were part of the boats.

Citing State v. Jackson, 162 N.C. App. 695 (2004), in this breaking or entering a motor vehicle case, the court held that the evidence was insufficient where it failed to show that that the vehicle contained any items of value apart from objects installed in the vehicle.

An indictment properly alleges the fifth element of breaking and entering a motor vehicle—with intent to commit a felony or larceny therein—by alleging that the defendant intended to steal the same motor vehicle.

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