State v. Capps, 374 N.C. 621 (Jun. 5, 2020)

The defendant was charged by arrest warrant with misdemeanor injury to personal property, misdemeanor larceny, and reckless driving after he cut off the end of a truck stop’s air hose, attempted to strike his passenger with it, and then quickly fled with it when confronted by an undercover officer. He was convicted in district court and appealed to superior court. Before trial in superior court, the State moved to amend the charging language to correct the name of the corporate property owner for the injury to personal property and larceny charges. The prosecutor made the amendment on a misdemeanor statement of charges form with no objection from the defendant. The defendant was convicted and appealed. A divided Court of Appeals held that the superior court lacked jurisdiction to try the charges amended through the statement of charges, reasoning that under the language of G.S. 15A-922(e), a statement of charges may be filed after arraignment only if the defendant objects to the State’s original pleading. State v. Capps, ___ N.C. App. ___, 828 S.E.2d 733 (2019). The State appealed and the Supreme Court reversed, reinstating the convictions. The Court held that warrants may be amended at any time when doing so does not materially affect the nature of the charged offense or is otherwise authorized by law. And the State may make the amendment though a statement of charges, because the General Assembly intended statements of charges to be generally treated like amendments. The Court rejected the defendant’s argument that the defendant’s objection to the sufficiency of a warrant is a necessary prerequisite to a post-arraignment statement of charges.