Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

Smith's Criminal Case Compendium


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., 11/27/2021
E.g., 11/27/2021

In 2018, the defendant was charged with felony breaking or entering a motor vehicle and other crimes for an incident involving the theft of several items from a car. Before trial, the defendant gave notice of her intent to raise a defense of voluntary intoxication. The trial court denied her request for an instruction on voluntary intoxication, concluding that the evidence showed that she spoke clearly, was responsive to questions, walked under her own power, and followed instructions from officers. The Court of Appeals held over a dissent that the trial court did not err in declining to give the instruction. State v. Meader, 269 N.C. App. 446 (2020). On appeal, the Supreme Court applied the standard that, to obtain a voluntary intoxication instruction, a defendant must produce substantial evidence supporting a conclusion that she was so intoxicated that she could not form the specific intent to commit the crime. Reviewing the evidence, the high court concluded that the defendant’s behavior, while periodically unusual, did not show her to be “utterly incapable” of forming specific intent. To the contrary, the evidence showed her to be aware of surroundings and in control of her faculties, both before and after the police arrived. The court thus held that the trial court did not err and affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals.

Justice Hudson, joined by Justice Morgan and Justice Earls, dissented. She wrote that the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the defendant, could lead a rational factfinder to conclude that she was unaware that she had taken another’s property.

The defendant’s wife, Mrs. Arnett, came home from work on November 21 and found the defendant drinking. They got in the defendant’s car and drove to grocery store, during which the defendant struck her, threatened her, and took her cellphone. Mrs. Arnett went inside the store and asked the manager to call law enforcement. The defendant was charged, and a court date was set for January 23.

On January 21, Mrs. Arnett again came home from work and found the defendant drinking. The defendant had ingested three beers prior to his wife arriving home and had consumed another after the couple returned from a trip to the grocery store. During dinner, the defendant drank another beer and started another. The defendant went to a neighbor’s house for marijuana and received eight Xanax bars instead, two of which he ingested. After returning home to finish his dinner, the defendant assaulted his wife, slamming her face into the wall, busting her eyes, and cutting her arms and chin. The defendant also kicked her legs, cut her head, stabbed her in the side, and repeatedly punched her in the face. Mrs. Arnett went to the hospital the next morning and remained hospitalized until January 24.

The defendant was indicted on charges of AWDWISI, and the defendant’s trial counsel filed a notice of voluntary intoxication defense, stating he would show that the defendant could not form the specific intent necessary for the crime charged. The trial court ruled AWDWISI was a general intent crime and that the defense of voluntary intoxication was not available to the defendant. At trial, the defendant’s attorney stated he would admit an element of the physical act of the assault, but not the defendant’s guilt because he lacked intent. The defendant told the court, on two separate occasions, that he understood his attorney would admit an element of the offense and that he had discussed the strategy with his attorney and agreed with the argument. The defendant was convicted of AWDWISI with two aggravating factors.

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred in ruling that the voluntary intoxication defense was not available. The Court of Appeals rejected this argument, reasoning that voluntary intoxication is a defense only to a crime that requires a showing of specific intent, and AWDWISI is not a specific intent crime.

The defendant next argued that the trial court’s Harbison inquiry was inadequate to confirm that he understood he was agreeing for counsel to admit the charged offense and present an invalid defense. The Court rejected this argument, noting that the defendant was present for two separate Harbison inquiries, the defendant was addressed personally by the trial court both times, the defendant confirmed he understood and consented to his counsel’s actions prior to any admission by his counsel, and the defendant heard the trial court’s ruling that voluntary intoxication would not be allowed as a defense to his general intent crime. The Court held that the Harbison inquiries as well as the conversations leading up to them were adequate to show that the defendant was thoroughly advised and knowingly consented to his attorney’s admission to the jury.

The defendant contended that he was denied effective assistance of counsel. The Court rejected this argument, reasoning that the defendant testified, was cross examined, and clearly consented to trial counsel’s acknowledgement of the defendant’s actions against his wife to the jury during closing argument. The Court concluded that the record showed a deliberate, knowing, and consented-to trial strategy in the face of overwhelming and uncontradicted evidence of the defendant’s guilt.

In this arson case, the evidence was not sufficient to entitle the defendant to a voluntary intoxication instruction. While the evidence showed that the defendant was intoxicated at the time in question, there was no evidence about how much alcohol she had consumed or about the length of time over which she had consumed it. The evidence showed only that the defendant had consumed some amount of some type of alcohol over some unknown period. The court also noted that the defendant’s conduct in committing the crime and behavior with law enforcement afterwards indicated some level of awareness of her situation.

Although the State presented evidence that the defendant smoked crack, there was no evidence regarding the crack cocaine’s effect on the defendant’s mental state and thus the trial court did not commit plain error in failing to instruct the jury on the defense of voluntary intoxication.

The trial court did not err by refusing to instruct on voluntary intoxication. Some evidence showed that the defendant had drunk two beers and "could feel it," had taken Xanax, and may have smoked crack cocaine. However, the defendant herself said she was not drunk and had not smoked crack. The defendant did not produce sufficient evidence to show that her mind was so completely intoxicated that she was utterly incapable of forming the necessary intent.

Because the defendant failed to present evidence of intoxication to the degree required to show that he was incapable of forming the requisite intent to commit attempted statutory rape and indecent liberties, the trial court did not commit plain error by failing to instruct the jury on voluntary intoxication. The State’s evidence showed that the defendant made careful plans to be alone with the child, and in at least one instance, tricked her into coming out of her room after she had locked herself away from him. The defendant offered evidence that he has abused alcohol and drugs for so long that his memory has deteriorated so that he cannot remember the relevant events. However, the court concluded, the defendant’s failure to remember later when accused is not proof of his mental condition at the time of the crime.

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