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
State v. Curtis, 371 N.C. 355 (Aug. 17, 2018)

On discretionary review of a unanimous, unpublished decision below, the court reversed, ruling on the “Turner issue” presented in this case and holding that the misdemeanor DWI prosecution was not barred by the two-year statute of limitations in G.S. 15-1. On 1 August 2012, the defendant was cited for DWI. A magistrate’s order was issued on 9 August 2012. On 21 April 2015, the defendant objected to trial on the citation and moved for a statement of charges and to dismiss. The defendant argued that because she was filing a pretrial objection to trial on a citation, the State typically would be required to file a statement of charges. However, she further argued that because G.S. 15-1 establishes a two-year statute of limitations for misdemeanors, the charges must be dismissed. In a Preliminary Indication, the District Court found a statute of limitations bar and dismissed the charges. The State appealed to Superior Court, arguing that the magistrate’s order tolled the statute of limitations. The Superior Court affirmed the District Court’s Preliminary Indication and the State appealed to the Court of Appeals. That court found the procedural and legal issues identical to those in State v. Turner, ___ N.C. App. ___, 793 S.E.2d 287 (2016), adopted the reasoning of that decision, and held that the District Court did not err by granting the motion to dismiss. The State again sought review, arguing that any criminal pleading that establishes jurisdiction in the district court tolls the two-year statute of limitations. The Supreme Court agreed. The Supreme Court found the citation was a constitutionally and statutorily proper criminal pleading that conveyed jurisdiction to the District Court to try the defendant for the charged misdemeanor. The court went on to hold that the citation tolled the statute of limitations. The court found itself unable to “conclude that the General Assembly intended the illogical result that an otherwise valid criminal pleading that vests jurisdiction in the trial court would not also toll the statute of limitations.”

State v. Stevens, ___ N.C. App. ___, 831 S.E.2d 364 (July 2, 2019) temp. stay granted, ___ N.C. ___, 829 S.E.2d 907 (Aug 1 2019)

Defendant was charged with two counts of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle by citation on December 24, 2013. On December 21, 2015, the state filed a misdemeanor statement of charges alleging the same offenses. While those charges were pending in district court, the grand jury issued a presentment for the offenses on March 7, 2016, and the state obtained a corresponding indictment on March 21, 2016. The defense filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the superior court indictments were obtained after the two-year statute of limitations for the offense had run. The trial court granted the motion. 

The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded. Pursuant to State v. Curtis, 371 N.C. 355 (2018), the citation and misdemeanor statement of charges filed in district court tolled the statute of limitations. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the presentment and indictment “annulled” the original district court prosecution, thereby making the new charges in superior court untimely. The original charges were still pending in district court at the time the state obtained the indictment, and “[i]f an action in District Court was properly pending, as it was here, the statute of limitations continued to be tolled.”

The statute of limitations applicable to misdemeanor offenses does not apply when the issue of a defendant’s guilt of a misdemeanor offense is submitted to the jury as a lesser included offense of a properly charged felony. Applying this rule, the court held that the two-year misdemeanor statute of limitations does not bar conviction for misdemeanor common law obstruction of justice when the misdemeanor was submitted to the jury as a lesser-included offense of felonious obstruction of justice, the crime charged in the indictment.

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