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., 10/04/2022
E.g., 10/04/2022

The defendant was charged with two counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, a Class H felony offense, and attaining the status of a habitual felon. The defendant entered an Alford plea to the sexual-exploitation charges and stipulated to having attained habitual-felon status. The plea arrangement provided that the charges would be consolidated into one Class H felony judgment, and that the defendant, as a habitual felon and a prior record level III offender, would receive an enhanced, Class D-level sentence of 67 to 93 months’ imprisonment, pursuant to G.S. 14-7.6. 

However, before accepting the plea and entering judgment, the trial court determined that the maximum sentence should be increased from 93 months to 141 months pursuant to the sentencing enhancement provided in G.S. 15A-1340.17(f) for certain “reportable convictions” that require enrollment in the sex-offender registry. The Court of Appeals allowed the defendant’s petition for writ of certiorari.

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred by increasing his maximum sentence from 93 months to 141 months pursuant to G.S. 15A-1340.17(f)’s sentencing-enhancement provision, which he argued does not apply to Class F through I felony reportable convictions enhanced with habitual-felon status. The Court of Appeals agreed, concluding that the defendant’s contemporaneous conviction of being a habitual felon did not reclassify his Class H felony convictions to a Class D felony conviction. Slip op. at ¶ 20. The Court rationalized that the plain language of G.S. 15A-1340.17(f) suggests that the sentencing enhancement only applies to those convicted of certain Class B1 through E felonies, rather than those convicted of lower-level felonies but punished at the higher level of Class B1 through E due to the application of some other sentencing enhancement. The Court thus held that the trial court erred by applying the 15A-1340.17(f) sentencing enhancement in the defendant’s case.

The defendant was convicted of indecent liberties with a child and felony child abuse by sexual act based on crimes committed against his daughter and stepdaughter.  The court of appeals held that the trial court properly determined the defendant’s maximum term of imprisonment for felony child abuse by sexual act, a Class D felony, based upon the minimum term it had selected (64 months) rather than the minimum term permitted by statute (51 months). G.S. 15A-1340.17(f) provides that, for offenders sentenced for reportable convictions that are Class B1 through E felonies, the maximum term of imprisonment “shall be equal to the minimum term of imprisonment and twenty percent (20%) of the minimum term of imprisonment, rounded to the next highest month, plus 60 additional months.” Once the trial court set the defendant’s minimum term of imprisonment at 64 months (the top of the presumptive range), it properly added 64 plus 13 (20 percent of 64, 12.8, rounded to the next highest month) plus 60, totaling 137 months.

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