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

In this trafficking of methamphetamine case, substantial evidence showed that the defendant believed the white substance handed to him during a controlled drug sale was fake, rather than an impure mixture containing methamphetamine, and therefore there was insufficient evidence that the defendant knowingly possessed the methamphetamine.  At a controlled drug sale arranged by law enforcement with the help of an informant, the defendant stated his belief that the substance presented to him as methamphetamine was, contrary to his expectations, “re-rock,” a term that was defined by the State’s witnesses to describe “fake” drugs.  In fact, the substance was a mixture of 1 gram of methamphetamine and at least 28 grams of a cutting agent.  As the defendant and an associate inspected the substance, law enforcement officers entered the room and arrested them.  Finding the case to be controlled by State v. Wheeler, 138 N.C. App. 163 (2000), the court explained that when there is no evidence that a person intends to continue a drug transaction because he or she believes the drugs are fake, handling the drugs for the sole purpose of inspection does not constitute possession.

Judge Berger dissented and expressed his view that there was sufficient evidence that the defendant knowingly possessed the methamphetamine because of his previous dealings in methamphetamine with the informant and because the defendant’s use of the term “re-rock” may have been a reference to impure, rather than fake, methamphetamine.  Judge Berger also distinguished Wheeler on the grounds that the defendant in this case did not affirmatively reject the methamphetamine mixture.

In a case in which the defendant was convicted of possession of heroin and trafficking in opium or heroin by transportation, the trial court did not err by denying the defendant’s request for an instruction about knowing possession or transportation. The court concluded that the requested instruction was not required because the defendant did not present any evidence that he was confused or mistaken about the nature of the illegal drug his accomplice was carrying.

In a heroin trafficking case where the defendant argued that he did not know that the item he possessed was heroin, the trial court committed plain error by denying the defendant’s request for a jury instruction that the State must prove that the defendant knew that he possessed heroin (footnote 4 of the relevant trafficking instructions). The court noted that knowledge that one possesses contraband is presumed by the act of possession unless the defendant denies knowledge of possession and contests knowledge as disputed fact. It went on to reject the State’s argument that the defendant was not entitled to the instruction because he did not testify or present any evidence to raise the issue of knowledge as a disputed fact. The court noted that its case in chief the State presented evidence that the defendant told a detective that he did not know the container in his vehicle contained heroin; this constituted a contention by the defendant that he did not know the true identity of what he possessed, the critical issue in the case. 

In a trafficking by possession case there was sufficient evidence of knowing possession where the defendant was driving the vehicle that contained the cocaine.

The evidence was sufficient to establish that the defendant knowingly possessed and transported the controlled substance. The evidence showed that (1) the packages involved in the controlled delivery leading to the charges at issue were addressed to “Holly Wright;” although a person named Holly Wainwright had lived in the apartment with the defendant, she had moved out; (2) the defendant immediately accepted possession of the packages, dragged them into the apartment, and never mentioned to the delivery person that Wainwright no longer lived there; (3) Wainwright testified that she had not ordered the packages; (4) the defendant told a neighbor that another person (Smallwood) had ordered the packages for her; (5) the defendant did not open the packages, but immediately called Smallwood to tell him that they had arrived; (6) after getting off the phone with Smallwood, the defendant acted like she was in a hurry to leave; and (7) Smallwood came to the apartment within thirty-five minutes of the packages being delivered.

There was sufficient evidence to show that the defendant knowingly possessed marijuana in a case where the defendant was convicted of trafficking in marijuana and conspiracy to traffic by possession. Defendant signed for and collected a UPS package containing 44.1 pounds of marijuana. About a half hour later, the defendant helped load a second UPS package containing 43.8 pounds of marijuana into the back seat of a car. Both boxes were found when police searched the car, driven by the defendant. The defendant had once lived in the same residence as his niece, the person to whom the packages were addressed, and knew that his niece frequently got packages like these. Also, the defendant expected to earn between $50 and $200 for simply taking the package from UPS to his niece. Finally the address on one of the boxes did not exist. 

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