State v. Tucker, 380 N.C. 234, 2022-NCSC-15 (Feb. 11, 2022)

In this case from Mecklenburg County, the defendant was convicted of violating a domestic violence protective order (“DVPO”) while in possession of a deadly weapon, as well as felony breaking or entering in violation of the DVPO, assault with a deadly weapon, and assault on a female. The defendant was served with an ex parte DVPO and a notice of hearing on the question of a permanent DVPO. He failed to attend the hearing, and a year-long DVPO was entered in his absence. On appeal, a unanimous Court of Appeals vacated the breaking or entering and DVPO violation convictions, finding that the defendant lacked notice of the permanent DVPO and therefore could not have willfully violated that order (summarized here). On discretionary review, the North Carolina Supreme Court reversed.

The ex parte DVPO was served on the defendant and indicated that a hearing would be held to determine whether a longer order would be entered. Though the defendant was not present at the hearing, he acknowledged his awareness of the DVPO during his arrest in the victim’s apartment the day after the hearing on the permanent order by stating he knew the plaintiff had obtained a DVPO—a remark captured on an officer’s bodycam. While this remark could have referred to the ex parte DVPO, it was sufficient evidence of the defendant’s knowledge of the permanent order when viewed in context in the light most favorable to the State. The Court of Appeals erred by failing to apply that standard. According to the unanimous Court:

Defendant’s statement, ‘I know,’ in addition to his other statements, conduct, and the timing of such conduct, supports this holding. The existence of evidence that could support different inferences is not determinative of a motion to dismiss for insufficient evidence. The evidence need only be sufficient to support a reasonable inference. Tucker Slip op. at 10 (citations omitted).

The Court of Appeals was therefore reversed, and the defendant’s convictions reinstated.