State v. Hunt, ___ N.C. App. ___, 790 S.E.2d 874 (Sept. 6, 2016)

(1) In this drug case, testimony from the State’s expert sufficiently established a trafficking amount of opium (over 4 grams). Following lab protocol, the forensic analyst grouped the pharmaceutically manufactured pills seized into four categories based on their unique physical characteristics. He then chemically analyzed one pill from three categories and determined that they tested positive for oxycodone. He did not test the pill in the final category because the quantity was already over the trafficking amount. Following prior case law, the court held that the analyst was not required to chemically analyze each individual tablet; his testimony provided sufficient evidence for a trafficking amount of opium such that an instruction on lesser included drug offenses was not required. The court also noted that any deviation that the analyst might have taken from the established methodology for analyzing controlled substances went to the weight of his testimony not its admissibility. (2) The analyst’s testimony was properly admitted under Rule 702. The court began by holding that the analyst’s testimony was the product of reliable principles and methods. Next, the court rejected the defendant’s central argument that the analyst should not have been permitted to testify regarding pills that were not chemically analyzed and therefore that his testimony was not based on sufficient facts or data and that he did not apply the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case. Rejecting this argument, the court noted the testing and visual inspection procedure employed by the analyst, as described above.