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., 07/18/2024
E.g., 07/18/2024
State v. Medlin, 380 N.C. 571 (Mar. 11, 2022)

In this Cabarrus County case involving a defendant convicted of obtaining property by false pretenses, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals, 2021-NCCOA-313, which had concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in imposing a special condition of probation under G.S. 15A-1343. Though not discussed in the Supreme Court’s opinion, the special condition at issue was that the defendant not have any contact with the victim—his mother-in-law, who also had legal custody of his three children. The defendant had argued that a probation condition forbidding all contact with his mother-in-law would conflict with the terms of his child custody order, which allowed limited visitation with his children each week. Highlighting the Court of Appeals’ observation that trial judges have substantial discretion in devising probation conditions, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s conclusion that the condition was reasonably related to protection of the victim and the defendant’s rehabilitation.

In this Brunswick County case, defendant appealed her convictions for forgery, uttering forged paper, altering court documents, residential mortgage fraud, and obtaining property by false pretense, arguing error in (1) denying her motion to dismiss the charges of altering court documents and obtaining property by false pretense, (2) ordering restitution, and (3) imposing an extended probation term. The Court of Appeals found error in denying the motion to dismiss the charge of altering court documents and remanded for resentencing, but otherwise affirmed the trial court.  

Defendant applied for a home loan in 2016, and submitted documentation showing her income from a full time job, a part time job, and from child support payments under a Florida court order. After the bank granted the loan, defendant applied for several forbearances, claiming a hardship due to losing her part-time job. The bank suspected fraud after her third application for forbearance, and an investigation determined there were many inconsistencies in the documentation; the bank eventually foreclosed on defendant’s home. Defendant eventually came to trial for submitting altered and forged documents to the bank, and the jury convicted defendant on all charges. The trial court imposed a 6 to 17 month imprisonment sentence, suspended for 30 months probation, but then extended the probation to 60 months to allow defendant to pay $25,061 in restitution.  

Considering (1), the Court of Appeals noted that the State had conceded it did not present evidence to show defendant altered the child support records from Florida. Under G.S. 14-211.2, evidence that the defendant altered official court records is required for a conviction, but at trial the State only admitted evidence the defendant altered a copy of an order showing income. Because the court could not determine “what weight, if any, the trial court gave to each of Defendant’s convictions, and because Defendant was sentenced at the top of the presumptive range of sentences rather than the lowest,” the court vacated the conviction and remanded for resentencing. Slip Op. at 7. The court did not find error with the obtaining property by false pretense charge, as the bank funded defendant’s loan based upon the false information she submitted. 

Turning to (2) the order of restitution, the court disagreed with defendant’s argument that the record did not contain evidence showing the banks’ monetary loss, as the record showed the bank relied on defendant’s statements to fund the loan and grant the forbearances. Additionally, the court noted that the trial court was aware of defendant’s marital and employment status, and gave her an extended term of probation to allow her more time to pay, indicating that it properly considered defendant’s ability to pay restitution. 

Finally, reviewing (3) the court explained that G.S. 15A-1343.2(d) permits a trial court to extend the term of probation when necessary for payment of restitution. Because the court found that the order of restitution was appropriate in (2), defendant’s argument that the probation term was improperly extended due to an erroneous restitution award also failed.

The defendant was charged with insurance fraud and obtaining property by false pretenses based on her submission of claims for living expenses that she did not incur. Following Hurricane Matthew, the defendant submitted a lease agreement purportedly signed by her stepfather providing that the defendant would pay $100 per day to stay in his home. Defendant’s stepfather subsequently told investigators that he did not have a lease agreement with the defendant and that she had not stayed in his home. The defendant was convicted of both charges at a jury trial.  The trial court consolidated the convictions for judgment and sentenced the defendant to 10 to 21 months imprisonment, suspended for 24 months of supervised probation. The trial court ordered the defendant to serve 60 days imprisonment as a condition of special probation.  The defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by sentencing her for both obtaining property by false pretenses and insurance fraud for the same alleged misrepresentation. She also argued that the trial court improperly delegated its authority to the defendant’s probation officer by failing to set a date by which the term of special probation had to be completed.

(1) The court of appeals determined that the trial court did not err by sentencing her for obtaining property under false pretenses and insurance fraud even though both offenses arose from the same misrepresentation. To determine whether multiple punishments may be imposed for multiple convictions in a single trial based on a single course of conduct, the court must look to the intent of the legislature. Each of the offenses for which the defendant was convicted contained an element the other did not. Insurance fraud requires proving that the defendant presented a statement in support of a claim for payment under an insurance policy; obtaining property by false pretenses requires proving that the defendant’s misrepresentation did in fact deceive. Based on the separate and distinct elements that must be proven, the appellate court reasoned that the legislature clearly expressed its intent to proscribe and punish a misrepresentation intended to deceive under both statutes. Additionally, the court noted that the subject of each crime is violative of two separate, distinct social norms: “Where obtaining property by false pretenses is generally likely to harm a single victim, a broader class of victims is harmed by insurance fraud.” Slip. op. at 8. Finally, regarding the history of the treatment of the two crimes for sentencing purposes, the court noted that previous panels had sustained sentencing for convictions of obtaining property by false pretenses and insurance fraud arising from the same misrepresentation. For these reasons, the court of appeals determined that the trial court did not err by consolidating the Class H felony convictions for judgment and sentencing the defendant in the high presumptive range for one Class H felony.

(2) The trial court did not err by delegating authority to the defendant’s probation officer and by not setting a completion deadline for the active term of the sentence as a condition of special probation. G.S. 15A-1351(a) permits a trial court to require that a defendant submit to periods of imprisonment during probation at “whatever time or intervals within the period of probation . . . the court determines,” so long as the total period of such confinement does not exceed one-fourth of the maximum sentence imposed. It further requires that imprisonment imposed as a condition of special probation be completed within two years of conviction.

In this case, the trial court sentenced the defendant to 10 to 21 months of imprisonment and suspended that sentence for 24 months of supervised probation. As a condition of probation, the trial court ordered the defendant to serve 60 days of imprisonment as a condition of special probation. The court specified that the defendant was “‘TO SERVE 30 DAYS AT ONE TIME AND 30 DAYS AT ANOTHER TIME AS SCHEDULED BY PROBATION.’” Slip op. at 11. The court of appeals held that the trial court appropriately determined the “intervals within the period of probation” as two 30-day periods, and the completion date was set by statute as August 27, 2021—which, in defendant’s case, was both the end of the two-year probationary period and two years from the date of conviction.

The defendant was convicted and placed on probation for several crimes, including drug-related crimes. The trial judge ordered as a special condition of probation that the defendant “[r]eport for initial evaluation by TASC” and “participate in all further evaluation, counseling, treatment, or education programs recommended as a result of that evaluation.” The Court of Appeals upheld the condition, rejecting the defendant’s argument that it was an improper delegation of the trial court’s authority to require participation in treatment dictated by the TASC evaluation and not specifically ordered by the court. The appellate court concluded that the condition was reasonably related to his drug-related conviction and his rehabilitation, and therefore proper as a discretionary condition under G.S. 15A-1343(b1)(10).

The defendant was speaking at an anti-abortion event outside an abortion clinic in Charlotte. He was using an amplified microphone and was sitting at the table where the amplification controls were located. Officers measured his amplified voice at more than 80 decibels and approached him to cite him for violating the city’s noise ordinance. The defendant refused to produce identification, so the officers arrested him and charged him with resisting, delaying, and obstructing a law enforcement officer as well as the noise ordinance violation. At a bench trial in superior court, a judge convicted the defendant of R/D/O and dismissed the noise ordinance violation because, although the judge concluded that the defendant had violated the ordinance, the city “had discretion to decide which enforcement penalties it would levy against a violator of the noise ordinance, but . . . failed to do so.” The judge sentenced the defendant to probation, one condition of which was that the defendant stay at least 1,500 feet away from the abortion clinic where the event took place. The defendant appealed. Among other issues: (1) The defendant’s conduct was covered by the ordinance, so the officers’ initial stop was valid. The ordinance applies, in part, to persons “operating . . . sound amplification equipment.” The defendant contended that simply speaking into a microphone does not amount to “operating” any “amplification equipment.” The court of appeals viewed that construction as “unduly narrow” and found that the “plain meaning” of the ordinance was that speaking into an amplified microphone, while sitting at a table with the amplification controls present, was covered. (2) The probation condition is reasonably related to the defendant’s rehabilitation as required by statute, in part because it reduces the likelihood that he will commit a similar offense again.

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