State v. Gentle, ___ N.C. App. ___, 817 S.E.2d 833 (Jul. 3, 2018)

aff’d per curiam, ___ N.C. ___, 822 S.E.2d 616 (Feb. 1, 2019)

The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court erred by denying his motion to dismiss a crime against nature charge. The defendant asserted that the State failed to offer substantial evidence that the offense was committed in a public place. The court noted that although Lawrence v. Texas limited the circumstances in which a defendant can be prosecuted for crime against nature, the State may prosecute conduct in which a minor is involved, involving nonconsensual or coercive sexual acts, occurring in a public place, or involving prostitution or solicitation. Here, the trial court instructed the jury on the public place theory. The defendant argued that the State failed to prove that the offense occurred in a public place because it occurred well outside of public view in a dark and wooded area. There is no requirement that the prohibited conduct occur in public view. Also, the victim’s description of the dark, wooded area does not foreclose its status as a public place. She consistently testified that the offense occurred at the bottom of the stairs in a parking lot and other evidence supported that testimony. Thus there was sufficient evidence that the defendant unlawfully engaged in sexual acts in a public place.