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., 06/13/2024
E.g., 06/13/2024

In this Craven County case, the State appealed a Court of Appeals majority opinion holding the indictment charging defendant with going armed to the terror of the public was deficient as it did not allege defendant’s conduct occurred on a public highway. The Supreme Court found no error in the indictment and reversed the Court of Appeals. 

Defendant was indicted for waiving a gun around and firing randomly in two parking lots during September of 2019. After defendant was convicted, his counsel filed an Anders brief with the Court of Appeals. After conducting an Anders review of the record, the Court of Appeals applied State v. Staten, 32 N.C. App. 495 (1977), and determined that defendant’s indictment was fatally flawed as it was missing the essential element that defendant committed his acts on a public highway. The State appealed based upon the dissent, which would have held that the allegations were sufficient.  

Taking up the appeal, the Supreme Court disagreed that going armed to the terror of the public “includes an element that the criminal conduct occur on a public highway.” Slip Op. at 6-7. Because going armed to the terror of the public is a common law crime, the Court examined the long history of the offense in English law and its adoption in North Carolina. After documenting the lengthy history of the offense, the Court explicitly overturned the Court of Appeals interpretation in Staten, explaining:

[T]he elements of the common law crime of going armed to the terror of the public are that the accused (1) went about armed with an unusual and dangerous weapon, (2) in a public place, (3) for the purpose of terrifying and alarming the peaceful people, and (4) in a manner which would naturally terrify and alarm the peaceful people.  

Id. at 14. After dispensing with the “public highway” argument, the Court confirmed that the indictment in question “adequately alleged facts supporting each element of the crime of going armed to the terror of the public.” Id. at 16.  

Justice Dietz did not participate in the consideration or decision of the case.

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