Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

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This compendium includes significant criminal cases by the U.S. Supreme Court & N.C. appellate courts, Nov. 2008 – Present. Selected 4th Circuit cases also are included.

Jessica Smith prepared case summaries Nov. 2008-June 4, 2019; later summaries are prepared by other School staff.

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E.g., 06/13/2024
E.g., 06/13/2024

The Court of Appeals properly applied the comparative elements test of State v. Sanders, 367 N.C. 716 (2014) in affirming the trial court’s consideration of the defendant’s Georgia conviction for statutory rape as equivalent to a North Carolina Class B1 felony for purposes of...

State v. Arrington, 371 N.C. 518 (Oct. 26, 2018)

On appeal from a decision of a divided panel of the Court of Appeals, ___ N.C. App. ___, 803 S.E.2d 845 (2017), the court reversed, holding that as part of a plea agreement a defendant may stipulate on his sentencing worksheet that a second-degree murder conviction justified a B1 classification...

State v. Sanders, 367 N.C. 716 (Dec. 19, 2014)

(1) The trial court erred by determining that a Tennessee offense of “domestic assault” was substantially similar to the North Carolina offense of assault on a female without reviewing all relevant sections of the Tennessee code. Section 39-13-111 of the Tennessee Code provides that “[a] person...

In this Cleveland County case, defendant petitioned for a writ of certiorari, arguing error in sentencing him at an inflated prior record level. The State conceded the error. The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment and remanded for resentencing with the appropriate prior record level.

In...

In this Mecklenburg County case, defendant appealed his convictions for attempted first-degree murder and various assault and firearms charges, arguing error in the determination of his prior record level by finding his federal carjacking conviction was substantially similar to common law...

In this Mecklenburg County case, defendant appealed his convictions for first-degree felony murder and possession of a firearm by a felon, arguing plain error in admitting an interview recording and error in calculating his prior record level. The Court of Appeals found no plain error or error...

In this New Hanover County case, defendant appealed his conviction for possessing a firearm as a felon, arguing error in the denial of his motion to suppress and improper sentencing. The Court of Appeals found no error.  

In February of 2020, a Wilmington police officer observed defendant...

The defendant was convicted at a jury trial of three felony drug charges for the possession, sale, and delivery of heroin, and pleaded guilty to attaining habitual felon status. The defendant stipulated to a sentencing worksheet that indicated a total of 12 record points, giving the...

(1) In this Franklin County case, the defendant was convicted of felony larceny pursuant to a breaking or entering, felony larceny of a firearm, firearm by felon, fleeing to elude, and armed robbery. The larceny pursuant to breaking or entering and larceny of a firearm occurred at the same time...

(1) In this Buncombe County case, the State prepared the defendant’s prior record level worksheet and calculated that the defendant had fourteen prior record points based on ten out-of-state felony and misdemeanor convictions. The defendant and her counsel stipulated to these prior...

A police officer stopped the defendant for suspected texting while driving. When the officer returned to his vehicle to check on the defendant’s identity, the defendant fled. (1) Before his trial on charges of texting while driving and felony fleeing to elude, the defendant moved to...

The trial court erred in calculating the defendant’s prior record level, which was proved by stipulation, by using a joinable offense as a prior conviction for sentencing purposes.  In 2004 the defendant was convicted of first-degree murder and armed robbery based on an incident where he...

State v. Graham, ___ N.C. App. ___, ___ S.E.2d ___ (Mar. 17, 2020) aff’d, ___ N.C. ___, 2021-NCSC-125 (Oct 29 2021)

The defendant was charged with four counts of engaging in sexual acts against a child under 13 and taking indecent liberties with a child. The defendant was alleged to have touched a child, A.M.D., in sexual manner on several occasions over a period of one to two years. The state’s...

The defendant pled guilty to various offenses in Wilson County and the State offered a prior record level (“PRL”) worksheet alleging 12 points, making her a Level IV for felony sentencing purposes. The defendant did not expressly stipulate to the prior convictions and neither she nor her...

The defendant fired a gun from his car toward a park where over a dozen people were playing basketball and hanging out. He was later found asleep in his car in a ditch by a Highway Patrol officer, who arrested him for driving while impaired. He was convicted by a jury of second-degree murder and...

State v. Glover, ___ N.C. App. ___, 833 S.E.2d 203 (Sept. 3, 2019) rev’d on other grounds, ___ N.C. ___, ___ S.E.2d ___ (Dec 18 2020)

The defendant was charged with possession of various drugs found in his bedroom and an adjoining alcove, which he said was his personal space. The defendant shared the house with a number of people, including a woman named Ms. Stepp. The defendant consented to a search of his bedroom and alcove...

State v. Ellis, ___ N.C. App. ___, 832 S.E.2d 750 (Aug. 20, 2019) rev’d on other grounds, ___ N.C. ___, ___ S.E.2d ___ (May 1 2020)

The court determined that the trial court erred in calculating the defendant’s prior record level (PRL) based on the defendant’s stipulation that a prior conviction for expired operators’ license was a Class 2 misdemeanor. At the time of the instant offense, driving with an expired license had...

The defendant pled guilty pursuant to Alford to drug and firearms offenses and to habitual felon status. The plea agreement specified that the offenses would be consolidated for judgment and the defendant sentenced in a specific mitigated range. The defense stipulated to a Prior Record...

The trial court did not err by accepting the defendant’s stipulation that a prior conviction for “No Operator’s License” was a Class 2 Misdemeanor. In making this stipulation, the defendant stipulated that the facts underlying his conviction justify that classification. The trial court was under...

Because the State failed to meet its burden of proving that the defendant’s 2012 possession of drug paraphernalia conviction was related to a drug other than marijuana, the court remanded for resentencing. Since 2014, state law has distinguished possession of marijuana paraphernalia, a Class 3...

No prejudicial error occurred with respect to the trial court’s finding that the defendant’s prior federal conviction of unlawful possession of a firearm was substantially similar to the North Carolina conviction of possession of a firearm by a felon, for purposes of assigning an extra point...

The trial court erred in calculating the defendant’s prior record level points. Specifically, it made an arithmetic error, finding that the points totaled 18 when in fact they totaled 17. This error lead the trial court to sentence the defendant as a prior record level VI offender instead of as...

(1) In calculating prior record level, the trial court did not err by concluding that the defendant’s South Carolina conviction for criminal sexual conduct in the third degree was substantially similar to the North Carolina Class C felonies of second-degree forcible rape and second-degree...

To the extent the State failed to meet its burden at sentencing to establish that the defendant’s prior conviction in federal court was substantially similar to a Class G felony in North Carolina, the error was harmless. The court found that there is sufficient information in the record to...

The trial court erred by assessing one prior record level point because the offense was committed while the offender was on probation, parole, or post-release supervision where the State did not give notice of its intent to seek this point. Including a prior record level worksheet in discovery...

The trial court did not err by sentencing the defendant as a PRL IV offender. The State used the defendant’s prior Michigan conviction at the default level as a Class I felony. On appeal the defendant argued that since the prior record level worksheet did not clearly show that the Michigan...

The trial court did not err by assigning points for two out-of-state felony convictions. “[B]ecause defendant stipulated to his prior record and the prosecutor did not seek to assign a classification more serious than Class I to his out-of-state convictions for second-degree burglary and...

The evidence supported sentencing the defendant as a PRL II offender where defense counsel’s lack of objection to the PRL worksheet, despite the opportunity to do so, constituted a stipulation to the defendant’s prior felony conviction.

There was sufficient evidence to sentence the defendant as a PRL IV offender. Defense counsel stipulated to the defendant’s prior record level as stated on the prior record level worksheet where counsel did not dispute the prosecutor’s description of the defendant’s prior record or raise any...

The trial court erred by including a prior record level point under G.S. 15A-1340.14(b)(7) where the State did not provide the defendant with notice of intent to prove the existence of the point as required by the statute.

The trial court erred when sentencing the defendant as a habitual felon by assigning prior record level points for an assault inflicting serious bodily injury conviction where that same offense was used to support the habitual misdemeanor assault conviction and establish the defendant’s status...

In calculating the defendant’s prior record level, the trial court erred by assigning an additional point on grounds that all the elements of the present offense were included in a prior offense. The defendant was found guilty of possession of a stolen vehicle. The court rejected the State’s...

The trial court correctly calculated the defendant’s PRL. The defendant argued that the trial court erred by basing its PRL calculation on an ineffective stipulation. The defendant’s only prior conviction was one in Michigan for carrying a concealed weapon, which he contended is substantially...

The trial court correctly calculated the defendant’s PRL. The defendant argued that the trial court erred by basing its PRL calculation on an ineffective stipulation. The defendant’s only prior conviction was one in Michigan for carrying a concealed weapon, which he contended is substantially...

The trial court correctly determined the defendant’s prior record level (PRL) points. At sentencing, the State submitted a print-out of the defendant’s Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) record. The defendant offered no evidence. On appeal, the defendant argued that the State failed to...

(No. COA13-925). Citing, State v. West, 180 N.C. App. 664 (2006) (the same case cited in Perkins above), the court held that the trial court erred by increasing the defendant’s sentence based on convictions for charges that originally had been joined for trial with the charges...

The trial court did not err in calculating the defendant’s prior record level when it counted a New Jersey third-degree theft conviction as a Class I felony. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that because New Jersey does not use the term “felony” to classify its offenses, the trial...

The trial court erred by sentencing the defendant as a PRL III offender when State failed to provide the notice required by G.S. 15A-1340.16(a6) and the defendant did not waive the required notice.

The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court erred by sentencing the defendant as a PRL III offender without complying with G.S. 15A-1022.1 (procedure for admissions in connection with sentencing). At issue was a point assigned under G.S. 15A-1340.14 (b)(7) (offense committed...

Although the trial court erred by accepting the defendant’s stipulation that a Tennessee conviction for “theft over $1,000” was substantially similar to a NC Class H felony, the error did not affect the computation of the defendant’s PRL and thus was not prejudicial.

Although the trial court erred by assigning the defendant one point for a misdemeanor breaking and entering conviction when it also assigned two points for a felony possession of a stolen vehicle conviction that occurred on the same date, the error did not increase the defendant’s PRL and thus...

The trial court did not err by accepting a stipulation to a PRL point under G.S. 15A-1340.14(b)(7) without engaging in the mandated colloquy where the context clearly indicated that it was not required.

Based on the elements of the two offenses, the trial court erred by concluding that a prior Ohio conviction was substantially similar to the North Carolina crime of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. 

The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court violated his rights under the ex post facto clause when it assigned points to his prior record level based upon a conviction that was entered after the date of the offenses for which he was sentenced in the present case. The court...

Where the defendant stipulated to the worksheet’s classification of a South Carolina conviction as a Class I felony, the trial court correctly assigned two points for that conviction. The court reasoned that the defendant knew of the worksheet’s contents and had ample opportunity to object to...

State v. Davis, 226 N.C. App. 96 (Mar. 19, 2013)

When determining prior record level, the trial court erroneously concluded that a Georgia conviction for theft was substantially similar to misdemeanor larceny without hearing any argument from the State. Additionally, the Georgia offense is not substantially similar to misdemeanor larceny; the...

The trial court did not err in calculating the defendant’s prior record level. The trial court considered the defendant’s two federal felony convictions as Class I felonies for purposes of calculating prior record level. Because the defendant made no showing that either conviction was...

The trial court did not err by finding that a NY drug conviction for third-degree drug sale was substantially similar to a NC Class G felony under G.S. 90-95. Comparing the two states’ statutes, the offenses were substantially similar, notwithstanding the fact that the states’ drug schedules are...

The trial court erred by assigning a PRL point under G.S. 15A-1340.14(b)(6) (one point if all the elements of the present offense are included in any prior offense). The trial court assigned the point because the defendant was convicted of felony speeding to elude (Class H felony) and had a...

Distinguishing State v. Hamby, 129 N.C. App. 366, (1998), the court held that the defendant could appeal the trial court’s calculation of her prior record level even though she had stipulated to her prior convictions on the sentencing worksheet. 

The evidence supported the trial court’s determination that the defendant was in PRL V. The trial court based its determination on NC and NY DCI records. The defendant argued that the NY DCI record was not sufficient because it was inconsistent with the NC DCI record. The court found any...

In determining whether out-of-state convictions were substantially similar to NC offenses, the trial court erred by failing to compare the elements of the offenses and instead comparing their punishment levels.

Sufficient evidence supported the trial court’s determination of the defendant’s prior record level. Counsel’s oral stipulation and the prior record level worksheet established the existence of an out-of-state felony conviction, even though neither the defendant nor defense counsel signed the...

The trial court erred by determining that the defendant was a prior record level VI when the defendant’s Florida conviction for burglary was not sufficiently similar to the corresponding N.C. burglary offense. The Florida statute is broader than the N.C. statute in that it encompasses more than...

The trial court erred in calculating the defendant’s prior record level with respect to whether a federal conviction was substantially similar to a N.C. felony. The determination of substantial similarity is a question of law which cannot be determined by stipulation to the worksheet.

The trial court erred by sentencing the defendant as a level IV offender when the State failed to present sufficient evidence establishing that out-of-state offenses were substantially similar to North Carolina offenses. The State presented printed copies of out-of-state statutes purportedly...

Distinguishing State v. Gentry, 135 N.C. App. 107 (1999), the court held that the trial court did not err by using a felonious breaking or entering conviction for the purpose of both supporting a possession of a firearm by a felon charge and calculating the defendant’s prior record...

Where the defendant stipulated that he was previously convicted of one count of conspiracy to sell or deliver cocaine and two counts of selling or delivering cocaine and that these convictions were Class G felonies, there was sufficient proof to establish his prior conviction level. The class of...

Since the State failed to demonstrate the substantial similarity of out-of-state New York and Connecticut convictions to North Carolina crimes and the trial court failed to determine whether the out-of-state convictions were substantially similar to North Carolina offenses, a resentencing was...

Although the trial court incorrectly determined that the defendant had a total of 8 prior record level points rather than six, the error was harmless. The defendant was assigned to prior record level III, which requires 5-8 points. A correct calculation of defendant’s points would have placed...

The State’s evidence regarding the defendant’s prior record level was insufficient. The State offered only an in-court statement by the prosecutor and the prior record level worksheet. The court rejected the State’s argument that the prior record level was agreed to by stipulation, noting that...

On appeal, a defendant is bound by his or her stipulation to the existence of a prior conviction. However, even if a defendant has stipulated to his or her prior record level, the defendant still may appeal the propriety of counting a stipulated-to conviction for purposes of calculating prior...

The defendant was properly assigned two prior record level points for a federal felony. The State presented a prior record level worksheet, signed by defense counsel, indicating that the defendant had two points for the federal conviction. During a hearing, the prosecutor asked defense counsel...

For purposes of assigning one prior record level point for out-of-state misdemeanors that are substantially similar to a North Carolina A1 or 1 misdemeanor, North Carolina impaired driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Thus, the trial court did not err by assigning one prior record level point to...

A printed copy of a screen-shot from the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) computerized criminal record system showing the defendant’s prior conviction is sufficient to prove the defendant’s prior conviction under G.S. 15A-1340.14(f)(3). Additionally, the information in the printout...

The trial court erred by sentencing the defendant at prior record level VI. Although the prosecutor submitted a Felony Sentencing Worksheet (AOC-CR-600), there was no stipulation, either in writing on the worksheet or orally by the defendant. The court noted that the relevant form now includes...

A printout from the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) contained sufficient identifying information to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant was the subject of the report and the perpetrator of the offenses specified in it. The printout listed the defendant’s...

A defendant’s stipulation to the existence of out-of-state convictions and their classification as felonies or misdemeanors can support a “default” classification for prior record level purposes. However, a stipulation to substantial similarity is ineffective, as that issue is a matter of law...

Following Ford, discussed above, and holding that the trial court properly assigned a prior record level point based on the fact that all elements of the offense at issue−delivery of a controlled substance, cocaine−were included in a prior conviction for delivery of a controlled...

State v. Flint, 199 N.C. App. 709 (Sept. 15, 2009)

When calculating prior record level points for a new felony, points may be assigned based on a prior substantive felony supporting a prior habitual felon conviction, but not based on the prior habitual felon conviction itself.

The defendant’s stipulation that certain out-of-state convictions were substantially similar to specified North Carolina offenses was ineffective. However, the defendant could stipulate that the out-of-state convictions occurred and that they were either felonies or misdemeanors under the other...

The defendant was convicted of attempted felony larceny and then pled guilty to being a habitual felon. The defendant previously had been convicted of felony larceny. That the judge properly found one point under G.S. 15A-1340.14(b)(6) (all elements of current offense are included in offense for...

There was no ex post facto violation in determining the defendant’s prior record level when prior record level points were calculated using the classification of the prior offense at the time of sentencing (Class G felony) rather than the lower classification in place when the defendant was...

A stipulation signed by the prosecutor and defense counsel in Section III of AOC-CR-600 (prior record level worksheet) supported the judge’s finding regarding prior record level. The court distinguished a prior case on grounds that the current version of the form includes a stipulation to prior...

State v. Lee, 193 N.C. App. 748 (Nov. 18, 2008)

The defendant’s stipulation that a New Jersey conviction was substantially similar to a North Carolina offense for prior record level points was ineffective. The “substantially similar” issue is a question of law that must be determined by a judge. 

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