State v. Piland, ___ N.C. App. ___, 822 S.E.2d 876 (Dec. 18, 2018)

In this drug case, the trial court erred but did not commit plain error by allowing the State’s expert to testify that the pills were hydrocodone. With no objection from the defendant at trial, the expert testified that she performed a chemical analysis on a single tablet and found that it contained hydrocodone. On appeal the defendant asserted that this was error because the expert did not testify to the methods used in her chemical analysis. The court agreed holding: “it was error for the trial court not to properly exercise its gatekeeping function of requiring the expert to testify to the methodology of her chemical analysis.” However, the court concluded that the error does not amount to plain error “because the expert testified that she performed a “chemical analysis” and as to the results of that chemical analysis. Her testimony stating that she conducted a chemical analysis and that the result was hydrocodone does not amount to “baseless speculation,” and therefore her testimony was not so prejudicial that justice could not have been done.