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.


Navigate using the table of contents to the left or by using the search box below. Use quotations for an exact phrase search. A search for multiple terms without quotations functions as an “or” search. Not sure where to start? The 5 minute video tutorial offers a guided tour of main features – Launch Tutorial (opens in new tab).

E.g., 06/17/2024
E.g., 06/17/2024

In this Catawba County case, the state appealed an order granting defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained after his arrest. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, determining that officers had reasonable suspicion to stop defendant and probable cause to arrest him and conduct a search.

In 2018, officers were surveilling a residence where drug-related activity was allegedly occurring, and they had been informed a black male with dreadlocks frequented the location. Defendant drove into the driveway of the residence to drop off a passenger and then depart; the officers observed his license plate. After accessing database information related to the license plate, officers determined defendant was driving with a medically cancelled license and pulled him over. Defendant was arrested for driving with a revoked license; during the arrest, officers searched defendant and found baggies containing methamphetamine hidden in his hair. Before trial, defendant moved to suppress the results of the search. The trial court granted his motion, finding that officers did not have reasonable suspicion to stop defendant based only upon the tip about a male with dreadlocks, and defendant’s offense was no operator’s license under G.S. 20-29.1, which did not constitute probable cause for arrest. Slip Op. at 4.

The Court of Appeals disagreed with the trial court’s analysis, finding that officers did not need reasonable suspicion to investigate a license plate as Fourth Amendment protections do not apply where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. Id. at 6-7. Once officers determined defendant had a medically cancelled license, they had reasonable suspicion based upon the traffic violation, not upon the original tip. Id. at 8-9. The court also examined the nature of defendant’s offense, exploring whether his medically cancelled license led to an infraction (which would not support the arrest/search), or a misdemeanor (which would support the arrest/search). Looking to G.S. 20-35(a), the court found that the offense was a Class 2 misdemeanor, and none of the enumerated exceptions applied to defendant’s situation. Id. at 15.

In this driving while license revoked case, because the defendant introduced evidence that he did not receive actual notice from the DMV that his license was revoked, the trial court erred by refusing to instruct the jury that it could find the defendant guilty only if he had knowledge of his revocation. The State’s evidence included copies of four dated letters from the DMV addressed to the defendant stating that his license had been suspended. However, the defendant testified that he never received any of those letters and was unaware that his license had been suspended. He suggested that his father might have received and opened the letters because he lived at the same address as the defendant. At trial, the defendant requested the instruction that to be guilty he must have had knowledge of the revocation. The trial court denied this request. To prove driving while license revoked, the State must prove that the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the revocation. If the State presents evidence that the DMV mailed notice of the defendant’s license revocation to the address on file for the defendant at least four days prior to the incident, there is a prima facie presumption that the defendant received the notice. However the defendant can rebut the presumption. If the defendant presents some evidence that he or she did not receive the notice or some other evidence sufficient to raise the issue, the trial court must instruct the jury that guilty knowledge is necessary for conviction. Here, the defendant testified that he did not receive the notice and offered an explanation as to why it may not have reached him. He was thus entitled to an instruction that he must have knowledge of the revocation. The court went on to hold that the error was prejudicial.

Show Table of Contents