State v. James, 215 N.C. App. 588 (Sept. 20, 2011)

Under the circumstances, no error occurred when the trial court allowed an officer to testify that a substance was crack cocaine based on visual examination and on the results of a narcotics field test kit (NIK). After officers observed the substance, the defendant ate it, in an attempt to conceal evidence. As to the visual identification, the court noted that “[u]nder normal circumstances” the testimony would be inadmissible under State v. Ward, 364 N.C. 133 (2010) (testimony identifying a controlled substance must be based on a scientifically valid chemical analysis and not mere visual inspection). It also noted that testimony regarding the NIK typically would be inadmissible because the State did not sufficiently establish the reliability of that test. However, the court concluded that “[u]nder the unique circumstances of this case . . . Defendant forfeited his right to challenge the admission of this otherwise inadmissible testimony.” It reasoned that “[j]ust as a defendant can lose the benefit of a constitutional right established for his or her benefit, we hold a defendant can lose the benefit of a statutory or common law legal principle established for his or her benefit in the event that he or she engages in conduct of a sufficiently egregious nature to justify a forfeiture determination.” It concluded: “[H]aving prevented the State from conducting additional chemical analysis by eating the crack cocaine, Defendant has little grounds to complain about the trial court’s decision to admit the police officers’ testimony identifying the substance as crack cocaine based on visual inspection and the NIK test results.”