State v. Massey, 2023-NCCOA-7, ___ N.C. App. ___ (Jan. 17, 2023)

In this Johnston County case, defendant appealed his controlled substance related convictions arguing error in (1) the admission of prior bad act evidence, and (2) denying his motion to dismiss some of the controlled substances charges. The Court of Appeals vacated and arrested the judgment for maintaining a dwelling resorted to by persons using methamphetamine, but otherwise found no error.

In March of 2019, Johnston County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant on defendant’s home, discovering methamphetamine in small baggies, marijuana, and paraphernalia consistent with selling drugs. Defendant was also noncompliant during the search and arrest, struggling with officers and attempting to flee. At trial, the state admitted certain text messages obtained from defendant’s cellphone, ranging from October 2018 to February 2019, as evidence of prior bad acts; defendant objected under Rule of Evidence 404(b) but the trial court denied his motion.

For issue (1), the Court of Appeals first found Rule 404(b) did not bar admission of the texts, as “knowledge was at issue during trial, [and] the challenged evidence is relevant as it corroborated the [s]tate’s contention that the substance defendant possessed was indeed marijuana and not legal hemp.” Slip Op. at 9. The court then determined under Rule 403 that the trial court performed a sufficient analysis of the evidence and did not commit an abuse of discretion when admitting the texts.

Under issue (2), the court found error with one of defendant’s convictions, maintaining a dwelling resorted to by persons using methamphetamine under G.S. 90-108(a)(7), as the state did not offer sufficient evidence to show any other person actually used defendant’s residence for consuming methamphetamine. The court noted that “the [s]tate failed to establish that anyone outside of defendant, used defendant’s home to consume controlled substances . . . [d]efendant cannot ‘resort’ to his own residence.” Id. at 18. The court rejected defendant’s arguments with respect to his other controlled substance convictions, and arrested judgment instead of remanding the matter as defendant’s convictions were consolidated and he received the lowest possible sentence in the mitigated range.

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