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

Affirming the opinion below, the court held that G.S. 90-95(h)(4) (trafficking in opium) applies in cases involving prescription pharmaceutical tablets and pills. The court reasoned that the statute explicitly provides that criminal liability is based on the total weight of the mixture involved and that tablets and pills are mixtures covered by that provision. 

The evidence was sufficient to prove a trafficking amount of methamphetamine. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the entire weight of a mixture containing methamphetamine at an intermediate stage in the manufacturing process cannot be used to support trafficking charges because the mixture is not ingestible, is unstable, and is not ready for distribution. The defendant admitted that the methamphetamine had already been formed in the liquid and it was only a matter of extracting it from the mixture. Also, the statute covers mixtures.

In a case in which the defendant was charged with trafficking in cocaine by manufacturing, the trial court did not commit plain error by failing to instruct the jury on manufacturing cocaine. The evidence showed that the defendant possessed cocaine and a mixture of cocaine and rice that exceeded the statutory trafficking amount. The defendant admitted to having mixed rice with the cocaine to remove moisture. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the combination of cocaine base and rice does not constitute a “mixture” as used in the trafficking statutes and concluded that the statutory reference to a “mixture” encompasses the mixture of a controlled substance with any other substance regardless of the reason for which that mixture was prepared.

The trial court did not err by allowing heroin recovered from the defendant's person outside the apartment to be combined with the heroin recovered from the apartment for the purposes of arriving at a trafficking amount for trafficking by possession. The defendant was observed entering the apartment immediately before his sale of 3.97 grams of heroin to an undercover officer. Upon arrest, the defendant said that he had more heroin in the apartment, and provided the key and consent for the officers to enter the apartment where 0.97 grams of additional heroin were recovered. This additional heroin was packaged for sale in the same manner as the heroin sold to the officer. The defendant admitted to being a drug dealer. There was no evidence any of the heroin was for the defendant's personal use. Under these circumstances, the defendant possessed the heroin in the apartment simultaneously with the heroin sold to the officer.

The evidence was insufficient to support the defendant’s methamphetamine trafficking convictions because G.S. 90-95(h)(3b) requires the state to prove the actual weight of the methamphetamine in a mixture. The defendant was convicted of trafficking by possession and manufacture of 400 grams or more methamphetamine. The state’s evidence consisted of 530 grams of a liquid that contained a detectable amount of methamphetamine. The exact amount of methamphetamine was not determined. The court noted that the trafficking statutes for methaqualone, cocaine, heroin, LSD, and MDA/MDMA specifically contain the clause “or mixture containing such substance,” whereas G.S. 90-95(h)(3b) for methamphetamine and as amphetamine does not contain that clause. [Author’s note: in 2009 the statute was revised to provide: “[a]ny person who sells, manufactures, delivers, transports, or possesses 28 grams or more of methamphetamine or any mixture containing such substance shall be guilty of a felony which felony shall be known as ‘trafficking in methamphetamine[.]’” (emphasis added).].

On appeal in this drug case from an unpublished opinion by the court of appeals, the supreme court held that there was sufficient evidence to support a conviction for conspiracy to traffic in opium. Specifically, the court pointed to evidence, detailed in the opinion, that the defendant agreed with another individual to traffic in opium by transportation. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the evidence showed only a “the mere existence of a relationship between two individuals” and not an unlawful conspiracy.

The evidence was sufficient to show a drug trafficking conspiracy where there was evidence of an implied agreement between the defendant and his accomplice. The defendant was present at the scene and aware that his accomplice was involved producing methamphetamine and there was sufficient evidence that the defendant himself was involved in the manufacturing process. The court concluded: “Where two subjects are involved together in the manufacture of methamphetamine and the methamphetamine recovered is enough to sustain trafficking charges, we hold the evidence sufficient to infer an implied agreement between the subjects to traffic in methamphetamine by manufacture and withstand a motion to dismiss.”

The term “deliver,” used in the trafficking statutes, is defined by G.S. 90-87(7) to “mean[] the actual constructive, or attempted transfer from one person to another of a controlled substance, whether or not there is an agency relationship.” Thus, an actual delivery is not required. In a prosecution under G.S. 90-95, the defendant bears the burden of establishing that an exemption applies, such as possession pursuant to a valid prescription. In this case, the trial court properly denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss and properly submitted to the jury the issue of whether the defendant was authorized to possess the controlled substances.

(1) The trial court did not commit plain error by failing to instruct the jury that to convict the defendant for trafficking by compounding it had to find he did so with an intent to distribute. Because the evidence showed that the defendant also manufactured by packaging and repackaging, the court concluded that the defendant failed to establish that a different outcome would probably have been reached had the instruction at issue been delivered at trial. (2) The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the evidence was insufficient to show trafficking in cocaine by manufacture. Where officers find cocaine or a cocaine-related mixture and an array of items used to package and distribute that substance, the evidence suffices to support a manufacturing conviction. Here, State’s evidence showed that more than 28 grams of cocaine and several items that are commonly used to weigh, separate, and package cocaine for sale were seized from the defendant’s bedroom.

 (No. COA10-534). The trial court erred by submitting to the jury the charge of possession with intent to manufacture cocaine because it is not a lesser-included offense of the charged crime of trafficking by possession of cocaine. However, possession of cocaine is a lesser of the charged offense; because the jury convicted on possession with intent to manufacture, the court remanded for entry of judgment on possession of cocaine.

No double jeopardy violation occurred when the defendant was convicted of trafficking in methamphetamine, manufacturing methamphetamine, and possession of methamphetamine based on the same illegal substance.

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