State v. Miller, ___ N.C. App. ___, 833 S.E.2d 644 (Oct. 1, 2019)

After getting into an argument at a holiday party, the defendant fired a warning shot from a rifle into the air and then fired a single shot into a moving vehicle occupied by two people, striking one of them in the neck and seriously injuring him. Defendant was subsequently convicted and sentenced for four felonies related to the shooting, including charges for both: (1) discharging a weapon into an occupied vehicle in operation inflicting serious bodily injury, a Class C felony under G.S. 14-34.1(c) (for the injured victim); and (2) discharging a weapon into an occupied vehicle in operation, a Class D felony under G.S. 14-34.1(b) (for the second occupant). On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court should have arrested judgment on the lesser of the two charges for firing into an occupied vehicle, because he could not be sentenced twice for the single act of firing one shot. The Court of Appeals agreed and held that although the defendant could be indicted and tried for both charges, upon conviction the trial court should have arrested judgment for the lesser offense. This case was distinguishable from other cases in which multiple judgments were supported because the defendant fired multiple shots or fired into multiple vehicles. In this case, where there was only one shot fired into one vehicle, the relevant inquiry under the statute is only whether the vehicle was occupied; the number of occupants is immaterial. To the extent that the presence of additional occupants in the vehicle increases the risk of injury or enhances the culpability of the act, that factor is accounted for by the ascending levels of punishment prescribed under the statute.