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., 09/26/2021
E.g., 09/26/2021

The petitioner appealed the district court’s denial of his concealed weapon permit. The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Department denied his application, citing information received from the Veteran’s Affairs (“V.A.”) that indicated the petitioner was disqualified due to substance abuse issues. The petitioner had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2016 and had experienced some suicidal ideation following the death of his young son (although he never attempted suicide). He also had some history of alcohol abuse and “concern over his drinking behavior,” but had not been treated for substance abuse specifically. The V.A. provided documentation to the petitioner indicating they did not agree with the Sheriff’s justification, and the petitioner provided that communication to the district court in his appeal. At hearing, the district court determined that the petitioner was disqualified under the substance abuse subsection and that he suffered a mental infirmity that prevented him from safely handling a firearm. He appealed, alleging due process violations.

G.S. 14-415.15 requires that the Sheriff notify an application of the reasons for denial of a concealed carry permit and explain the reason for the denial. A “bare bones” denial does not meet the requirement of the statute. Here, the Sheriff’s denial failed to contain sufficient information about the alleged substance abuse to afford the petitioner an opportunity to challenge that conclusion. The petitioner further had no notice whatsoever that his mental health beyond potential substance abuse issues would be considered at the hearing, or that his ability to safely handle a firearm would be at issue. The court rejected the argument that the Sheriff’s denial letter referencing the V.A. records provided notice that any matter within his V.A. records were potentially at issue. Because the denial letter referenced a specific subsection of the statute, the petitioner could not have known that other issues were in play. “Petitioner had no meaningful notice his mental health history would be either at issue or a basis for denial for inability to safely handle a firearm before the trial court.”

The petitioner also argued that the district court’s finding of substance abuse was unsupported by the record. Because no transcript of the hearing was contained in the record on appeal, the court was unable to review the oral evidence at the hearing. Normally it is the burden of the appealing party to establish the record on appeal, but here “the burden shifted to [the Sheriff] to show the alleged violation had no impact on the remainder of the proceedings, because [the Sheriff] violated Duvall’s due process rights. Without a transcript or narrative of what occurred at the hearing, [the Sheriff] cannot meet that burden.” However, the district court was ordered to apply the definition of “addict” from 21 U.S.C. 802 when determining whether the petitioner was disqualified for the permit under the substance abuse subsection. The case was therefore unanimously reversed and remanded for a new hearing. One judge wrote separately to concur in judgment.

In a case where an inmate was charged with carrying a concealed weapon, there was sufficient evidence that the weapon was “concealed about his person.” Officers found one razor blade stuck to the underside of a table top in the day room adjoining the defendant’s cell, where the defendant had been seated earlier in the day. They found another on the ledge below the window in the defendant’s darkened cell, moments after he held such a blade in his hand while threatening an officer.

(1) G.S. 14-415.12 (criteria to qualify for a concealed handgun permit) was not unconstitutional as applied to the petitioner. Relying on case law from the federal circuit courts, the court adopted a two-part analysis to address Second Amendment challenges. First, the court asks whether the challenged law applies to conduct protected by the Second Amendment. If not, the law is valid and the inquiry is complete. If the law applies to protected conduct, it then must be evaluated under the appropriate form of “means-end scrutiny.” Applying this analysis, the court held that the petitioner’s right to carry a concealed handgun did not fall within the scope of the Second Amendment. Having determined that G.S. 14-415.12 does not impose a burden on conduct protected by the Second Amendment, the court found no need to engage in the second step of the analysis. (2) The sheriff properly denied the petitioner’s application to renew his concealed handgun permit where the petitioner did not meet the requirements of G.S. 14-415.12. The court rejected the petitioner’s argument that G.S. 14-415.18 (revocation or suspension of permit) applied.

In this carrying a concealed gun case, the court addressed the issue of whether the provisions in G.S. 14-269(a1) were elements or defenses. Following State v. Trimble, 44 N.C. App. 659 (1980) (dealing with the statute on poisonous foodstuffs in public places), it explained:

The State has no initial burden of producing evidence to show that Defendant’s action of carrying a concealed weapon does not fall within an exception to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-269(a1); however, once Defendant puts forth evidence to show that his conduct is within an exception – that he had a concealed handgun permit [under G.S. 14-269(a1)(2) for example] – the burden of persuading the trier of fact that Defendant’s action was outside the scope of the exception falls upon the State. Based on the Court’s holding in Trimble, we conclude that the exception in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-269(a1)(2) is a defense, not an essential element of the crime of carrying a concealed weapon . . . .

There was sufficient evidence that the defendant constructively possessed a gun found in a van to support charges of carrying a concealed weapon and possession of a firearm by a felon. The fact that the defendant was the driver of the van gave rise to an inference of possession. Additionally, other evidence showed possession: the firearm was found on the floor next to the driver’s seat, in close proximity to the defendant; the defendant admitted that he owned the gun; and this admission was corroborated by a passenger in the van who had seen the defendant in possession of the weapon that afternoon, and remembered that the defendant had been carrying the gun in his pants pocket and later placed it on the van floor.

The court rejected the defendant’s argument that as applied to him, G.S. 14-269.4 (carrying weapon in a courthouse) violated his right to bear arms under Article I, Section 30 of the North Carolina Constitution. The defendant had argued that the General Assembly had no authority to enact any legislation regulating or infringing on his right to bear arms. The court rejected this argument, noting that the state may regulate the right to bear arms, within proscribed limits. The court also held that the trial judge did not err by refusing to instruct the jury that it must consider whether the defendant knowingly or willfully violated the statute. The court concluded that an offender’s intent is not an element of the offense.

The evidence was sufficient to establish possession supporting convictions of felon in possession and carrying concealed where the defendant ran through a field in a high traffic area, appeared to have something heavy in his back pocket and to make throwing motions from that pocket, and a clean dry gun was found on the wet grass.

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