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., 09/25/2021
E.g., 09/25/2021

The trial court erred by denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss a charge of misdemeanor injury to personal property. First, the State failed to present sufficient evidence showing that the defendant intended to cause injury to the personal property. The property in question was appliances, owned by the defendant’s landlord, that the defendant was alleged to have damaged while moving them from one home to another. The only evidence on point was the defendant’s own testimony, in which she acknowledged that the damage could have occurred during moving. This was insufficient to show that the defendant intentionally caused the damage. Second, the evidence was insufficient to establish that the defendant was the person who damaged the appliances.

The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the evidence was insufficient to sustain a conviction for injury to personal property. The defendant asserted that his mere presence at the scene constituted insufficient evidence. However, citing other incriminating evidence, the court rejected this assertion. 

In this injury to real property case, the court held that an air conditioning unit that was attached to the exterior of a mobile home was real property. The defendant dismantled and destroyed the unit, causing extensive water damage to the home. The trial court instructed the jury that “[a]n air conditioner affixed to a house is real property” and the jury found the defendant guilty of this offense. On appeal the defendant argued that the air conditioning unit was properly classified as personal property. The court rejected the argument that State v. Primus, 742 S.E.2d 310 (2013), controlled, finding that case did not resolve the precise issue at hand. After reviewing other case law the court determined that the air-conditioner would be real property if it was affixed to the mobile home such that it “became an irremovable part of the [mobile home].” Applying this test, the court concluded:

The air-conditioner at issue … comprised two separate units: an inside unit, referred to as the A-coil, which sat on top of the home’s heater, and an outside condensing unit, which had a compressor inside of it. The two units were connected by copper piping that ran from the condenser underneath the mobile home into the home. [A witness] testified that the compressor, which was located inside the condensing unit, had been totally “destroyed,” and that although the condensing unit itself remained in place, it was rendered inoperable. Thus, . . . the entire air-conditioner could not be removed but had to be “gutted” and removed in pieces. Moreover, when defendant cut the copper piping underneath the home, he caused significant damage to the water pipes that were also located in the crawlspace. Thus, here, not only could the air-conditioner not be easily removed from the mobile home but it also could not be easily removed from other systems of the home given the level of enmeshment and entanglement with the home’s water pipes and heater.

The court went on to note that while the mobile home could serve its “contemplated purpose” of providing a basic dwelling without the air-conditioner, the purpose for which the air-conditioner was annexed to the home supports a conclusion that it had become part of the real property: the use and enjoyment of the tenant.

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