State v. Booth, 2022-NCCOA-679, ___ N.C. App. ___ (Oct. 18, 2022)

In this Beaufort County case, defendant appealed his possession of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia convictions, arguing the trial court erred by admitting hearsay testimony and denying his motion to dismiss for insufficient evidence. The Court of Appeals found harmless error in admitting the hearsay testimony and sufficient evidence to support the convictions.

Between February and March of 2019, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office used a confidential informant to conduct drug buys at a car wash owned by defendant’s father. Using audio and video transmitters, the officers heard and observed defendant discuss the price of drugs and handing drugs over for sale. Defendant was subsequently convicted based on the testimony of one of the officers who arranged the buys and observed the transmitters during the buys from defendant. This officer testified that he had known defendant since he was a little boy and would recognize his voice in a recording.

Defendant argued that the testimony of the officer was hearsay, as he read directly from the search warrant and affidavit; the court disagreed, noting that the officer offered extensive testimony from personal memory, and evidence in the record supported the conclusions outside of the hearsay statements. Additionally, the court noted defendant had ample opportunity for cross-examination on the substance of the officer’s testimony, meaning even if the portions of testimony that were hearsay were admitted erroneously, they did not rise to the level of prejudicial under the plain error standard. Slip Op. at 6-7, citing State v. Ridgeway, 137 N.C. App. 144 (2000). The court likewise held that admitting the search warrant and affidavit was harmless error, as the officer was present on the stand for cross-examination about the contents of the search warrant. Id. at 9-10, citing State v. Jackson, 24 N.C. App. 394 (1975).

The basis of defendant’s motion to dismiss was the State did not admit sufficient evidence to establish that the product seized was marijuana instead of hemp. The court noted extensive evidence in the record regarding (1) defendant referring to the substance for sale as “marijuana” and (2) the officer’s testimony about the substance and the paraphernalia present that supported the conclusion that defendant was selling marijuana. Id. at 13-14. Based on this evidence the court found no error with the denial of defendant’s motion. 

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