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 State’s evidence tended to show that the defendant was driving a van with a trailer attached behind it when he cut off two motorcycles, made rude gestures, and caused one of the motorcycles to crash. The driver of the motorcycle sustained serious injuries and a passenger died as a result of the accident. The defendant slowed down briefly and then fled the scene. 

(1) The trial court did not err in denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss the charges of felony hit and run because there was sufficient evidence that the defendant knew or reasonably should have known, that the vehicle he was driving was involved in a crash and that someone was killed or seriously injured as a result. First, the defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence that he knew or reasonably should have known that the vehicle he was operating was involved in a crash or that the crash had resulted in serious bodily injury because the evidence could have shown that the defendant could not have seen behind his van and trailer or that there may not have been contact between the victim’s motorcycle and the defendant’s trailer. The Court of Appeals rejected this argument for multiple reasons, largely centering on evidence of the defendant’s awareness of the position of his vehicle relative to the motorcyclists and other traffic and evidence that the defendant slowed down immediately following the crash and then sped away at a high rate of speed.

(2) The defendant argued that the trial court erred in giving the jury an instruction on flight as evidence of the defendant’s consciousness of guilt because “leaving the scene of the offense, which could be considered flight under the challenged instruction, is an essential element of felony hit and run.” Slip op. at ¶ 37. The Court of Appeals disagreed with the defendant’s assertion that flight is an essential element of felony hit and run, explaining that flight requires some evidence of a defendant taking steps to avoid apprehension while a driver’s motive for leaving the scene of a crash for purposes of felony hit and run is immaterial. The court went on to find the instruction supported by evidence of the defendant speeding away, later lying about why his tire was blown out, and asking for directions to a destination that would allow him to arrive there without traveling on the interstate.

Hit and run resulting in injury is a lesser included offense of hit and run resulting in death. The defendant was indicted for a felonious hit and run resulting in death. At trial the State requested that the jury be instructed on the offense of felonious hit and run resulting in injury. Over the defendant’s objection, the trial court agreed to so instruct the jury. The jury found the defendant guilty of that offense. On appeal, the court held that because felonious hit and run resulting in injury is a lesser included offense of hit and run resulting in death no error occurred.

In a hit and run case involving failure to remain at the scene, the trial court committed plain error by failing to instruct the jury with respect to willfulness where the defendant’s sole defense was that his departure was authorized and required to get assistance for the victim. The court continued:

To prevent future confusion and danger, we also take this opportunity to address the State’s argument that N.C.G.S. § 20-166 prohibits a driver from leaving the scene of an accident to obtain medical care for himself or others and instead only authorizes a driver to temporarily leave to in order to call for help. While it is true that subsection (a) instructs that a driver may not leave the scene of an accident “for any purpose other than to call for a law enforcement officer, to call for medical assistance or medical treatment,” we do not read statutory subsections in isolation. Instead, statutes dealing with the same subject matter must be construed in pari materia and reconciled, if possible.

Applying that principle here leads us to conclude that, even though N.C.G.S. §20-166(a) instructs that drivers may only leave for the limited purpose of calling for aid, that authorization is expanded by N.C.G.S. § 20-166(b)’s requirement that drivers, among other things, “shall render to any person injured in such crash reasonable assistance, including the calling for medical assistance” permitted by subsection (a). (Emphasis added). The plain language of this provision indicates that a driver’s obligation to an injured person permits him to take action including but not limited to that which is authorized by subsection (a). Accordingly, it is clear that taking a seriously injured individual to the hospital to receive medical treatment is not prohibited by the statute in the event that such assistance is reasonable under the circumstances. In fact, the violation of that directive is itself a Class 1 misdemeanor.

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