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., 09/25/2021
E.g., 09/25/2021
State v. Morgan, ___ N.C. App. ___, 814 S.E.2d 843 (Apr. 17, 2018) rev’d in part on other grounds, ___ N.C. ___, ___ S.E.2d ___ (Aug 16 2019)

Because the defendant was not given notice and an opportunity to be heard as to the final amount of attorneys’ fees that would be entered against him, the court vacated the civil judgment entered pursuant to G.S. 7A-455 and remanded to the trial court. At sentencing, the trial court may enter a civil judgment against an indigent defendant for fees incurred by the defendant’s court-appointed attorney. However, before entering judgment the trial court must give the defendant notice and opportunity to be heard regarding the total amount of hours and fees claimed by court-appointed counsel. Although the trial court discussed attorneys fees with the defendant’s appointed attorney in the defendant’s presence, the trial court did not ask the defendant whether he wished to be heard on the issue. Additionally, while the exchange reveals that the appointed lawyer claimed seven hours of work, the record contains no evidence that the defendant was notified of and given an opportunity to be heard regarding the total amount of fees that would be entered.

The trial court erred by entering a civil judgment against the defendant for the attorneys’ fees incurred by his court-appointed counsel under G.S. 7A-455 without providing the defendant with notice and an opportunity to be heard. The court explained, in part:

With respect to counsel fees incurred under § 7A-455, the interests of defendants and their counsel may not always align. Because indigent defendants may feel that the fees charged by counsel were unreasonable in light of the time, effort, or responsibility involved in the case, and because those defendants might reasonably believe—as is the case at various stages of the criminal trial and sentencing—that they may speak only through their counsel, we hold that trial courts must provide criminal defendants, personally and not through their appointed counsel, with an opportunity to be heard before entering a money judgment under § 7A-455. Because [the defendant] was not informed of his right to be heard before the court entered the money judgment in this case, we vacate that judgment and remand for further proceedings.

The court instructed: “[B]efore entering money judgments against indigent defendants for fees imposed by their court-appointed counsel . . . trial courts should ask defendants—personally, not through counsel—whether they wish to be heard on the issue.” It added:

Absent a colloquy directly with the defendant on this issue, the requirements of notice and opportunity to be heard will be satisfied only if there is other evidence in the record demonstrating that the defendant received notice, was aware of the opportunity to be heard on the issue, and chose not to be heard.

The court agreed with the defendant that a civil judgment imposing fees against him must be vacated because neither the defense counsel’s total attorney fee amount nor the appointment fee were discussed in open court with the defendant. The court noted that on remand the State may apply for judgment in accordance with G.S. 7A-455, provided that the defendant is given notice and an opportunity to be heard regarding the total amount of hours and fees claimed for court-appointed counsel. Similarly, although the $60 appointment fee was vacated, that was without prejudice to the State again seeking an appointment fee on remand.

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