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., 04/12/2024
E.g., 04/12/2024

In this Cabarrus County case, defendant appealed her convictions for felony speeding to elude arrest, arguing error in denial of her motion to dismiss for insufficient evidence of speeding in excess of 15 mph over the speed limit. The Court of Appeals found no error. 

In September of 2018, defendant was pulled over by officers for an expired plate. During the traffic stop, defendant failed to provide a license or registration, and gave the officers an incorrect name, but the officers determined her correct name through a search on their computer terminal. The officers asked defendant to confirm her name 20-30 times, but she refused; after this exchange, one of the officers struck the window attempting to remove defendant from the vehicle, and at that point defendant sped off from the traffic stop. The officers pursued defendant, and although she initially eluded them by driving at a high rate of speed, she eventually crashed and was discovered by the officers. Two aggravating factors elevated defendant’s offense to a felony, (1) speeding in excess of 15 mph over the speed limit, and (2) driving with a revoked license. 

The only issue on appeal was whether sufficient evidence was admitted to show speeding in excess of 15 mph over the speed limit, as defendant stipulated that her license was revoked at the time of the incident. The Court of Appeals examined three elements, whether the prosecution admitted sufficient evidence of: (1) the posted speed limit on the relevant highway, (2) defendant’s speed eluding arrest, and (3) the officers’ precise speed in pursuit of defendant. Examining (1), the court explained that testimony from one of the officers regarding the posted speed limit established substantial evidence that the limit was 45 mph. Turning to (2), the court noted that testimony from one of the officers regarding an estimated speed for the defendant was adequate to support the allegation that defendant was traveling in excess of 15 mph over the speed limit. The court found the officer had a “reasonable opportunity” to observe the speed of defendant’s vehicle, and any question about the credibility of the officer’s testimony was one for the jury, not a matter of admissibility. Slip Op. at 13-14. Finally, considering (3), the court found that while no direct testimony established the speed of the officers in pursuit, sufficient evidence of guilt was present, including a photograph of the serious wreck of defendant’s car, and the testimony offered by the officer regarding her excessive speed. As a result, the court found sufficient evidence to support each element of the offense and no error. 

In this felony speeding to elude case, the State presented sufficient evidence that the defendant caused property damage in excess of $1000, one of the elements of the charge. At trial, an officer testified that the value of damages to a guardrail, vehicle, and house and shed exceeded $1000. Additionally, the State presented pictures and videos showing the damaged property. The court noted that because the relevant statute does not specify how to determine the value of the property damage, value may mean either the cost to repair the property damage or the decrease in value of the damaged property as a whole, depending on the circumstances of the case. It instructed: “Where the property is completely destroyed and has no value after the damage, the value of the property damage would likely be its fair market value in its original condition, since it is a total loss.” It continued, noting that in this case, it need not decide that issue because the defendant did not challenge the jury instructions, and the evidence was more than sufficient to support either interpretation of the amount of property damage. Here, the officer’s testimony and the photos and video establish that besides hitting the guard rail, the defendant drove through a house and damaged a nearby shed. “The jury could use common sense and knowledge from their ‘experiences of everyday life’ to determine the damages from driving through a house alone would be in excess of $1000.

In a felony speeding to elude case there was sufficient evidence that the defendant drove recklessly. An officer testified that the defendant drove 82 mph in a 55 mph zone and that he was weaving around traffic; also a jury could infer from his testimony that the defendant crossed the solid double yellow line.

The trial court did not err by instructing the jury that in order to constitute an aggravating factor elevating speeding to elude arrest to a felony, driving while license revoked could occur in a public vehicular area. Although the offense of driving while license revoked under G.S. 20-28 requires that the defendant drive on a highway, driving while license revoked can aggravate speeding to elude even if it occurs on a public vehicular area. While the felony speeding to elude arrest statute lists several other aggravating factors with express reference to the motor vehicle statutes proscribing those crimes (e.g., passing a stopped school bus as proscribed by G.S. 20-217), the aggravating factor of driving while license revoked does not reference G.S. 20-28.

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