Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing an order denying Defendant’s motion to suppress and vacating Defendant’s guilty plea. Defendant moved to suppress the evidence derived from a search of the car he was driving after he was pulled over for traffic violations, arguing that the search violated the Fourth Amendment. The trial court denied the motion to suppress. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the traffic stop had been unlawfully prolonged under the standard that the United States Supreme Court set out in Rodriguez v. United States, 575 U.S. __ (2015). The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the stop was not unlawfully prolonged under the standard set forth in Rodriguez. View "State v. Bullock" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the Court of Appeals reversing the trial court’s order addressing the appropriate measure of damages in this condemnation action. The North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) condemned a leasehold interest held by Adams Outdoor Advertising of Charlotte Limited Partnership (Adams). Adams owned a billboard situated on the leasehold and rented out space on the billboard. At the time of the taking the billboard did not conform to city or state regulations, but Adams possessed permits that allowed for the billboard’s continued use. The Supreme Court held (1) the fair market value provision of N.C. Gen. Stat. Article 9 governed this condemnation proceeding; (2) the value added by the billboard, the evidence of rental income derived from leasing advertising space on the billboard, and the value added to the leasehold interest by the permits issued to Adams may be considered in determining the fair market value of the leasehold interest; (3) an automatic ten-year extension of a lease may be considered in determining the fair market value, but options to renew the lease may not be; and (4) bonus value method evidence offered by DOT may not be considered in determining the fair market value of the leasehold interest. View "Department of Transportation v. Adams Outdoor Advertising of Charlotte Limited Partnership" on Justia Law

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Defendant was subjected to a custodial interrogation as defined in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), when police questioned him while he was confined under a civil commitment order, and therefore, the failure of police to advise him of his Miranda rights rendered inadmissible the incriminating statements he made during the interrogation. The trial court concluded otherwise and denied Defendant’s motion to suppress. Defendant was subsequently convicted of robbery with a dangerous weapon. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress and vacated his conviction, holding that the trial court’s order denying Defendant’s motion to suppress was an erroneous application of the law and that the error was prejudicial. View "State v. Hammonds" on Justia Law

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In this criminal case, the prosecutor’s comments in his closing argument were improper but did not amount to prejudicial error in light of the evidence against Defendant, and therefore, the trial judge did not err by failing to intervene ex mero motu in the prosecutor’s closing arguments. The court of appeals vacated Defendant’s conviction and ordered a new trial, concluding that the prosecutor’s statements had the cumulative effect of resulting in unfair prejudice to Defendant, and therefore, the trial court erred by failing to intervene ex mero motu. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the prosecutor’s statements were improper; but (2) the statements were not so grossly improper as to prejudice Defendant’s due process rights. View "State v. Huey" on Justia Law

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N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-16.2(b) alone does not create a per se exception to the warrant requirement. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether section 20-16.2(b), which authorizes law enforcement to obtain a blood sample from an unconscious defendant who is suspected of driving while impaired without first obtaining a search warrant, was unconstitutionally applied to Defendant. Defendant in this case filed a pretrial motion to suppress testing performed by law enforcement on his seized blood. The trial court granted the motion, concluding as a matter of law that the seizure of Defendant’s blood was a search subject to Fourth Amendment protection and, under a totality of the circumstances test, no exigency justified a warrantless search. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding that section 20-16.2(b) is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment as applied to Defendant in this case because (1) there was no dispute that there were no exigent circumstances justifying a warrantless blood draw; (2) section 20-16.2(b) does not create a per se exception to the warrant requirement; and (3) the State did not carry its burden of proving voluntary consent. View "State v. Romano" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with violating N.C. Gen. Stat. 90-95(d1)(1)(c). Defendant filed a motion requesting the trial court to declare section 90-95(d1)(1)(c) unconstitutional on the grounds that punishing him for violating a newly enacted statutory provision contravened his federal due process rights. The trial court denied Defendant’s motion. Thereafter, a jury convicted Defendant as charged. Defendant appealed, arguing that the statute, as applied to him, violated his due process rights. Specifically, Defendant argued that when a state has rendered otherwise innocent and lawful behavior subject to significant criminal penalties, due process considerations require either that scienter or mens rea be shown in order to prove guilt or, alternatively, that the State establish that Defendant had fair warning that a previously lawful act was now subject to a criminal sanction. The Court of Appeals held that section 90-95(d1)(1)(c) was unconstitutional as applied to Defendant on notice-related grounds. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant’s conviction did not result in a violation of his federal constitutional right to due process of law because the conviction rested upon Defendant's own active conduct rather than a “wholly passive” failure to act. View "State v. Miller" on Justia Law

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In two separate jury trials, Defendant was convicted of assault on a female, second-degree rape, second-degree sexual offense, and first-degree kidnapping. Defendant appealed, arguing that the second trial judge erred when she denied Defendant’s motion to suppress his custodial statements. The Court of Appeals ruled that Defendant did not understand his Miranda rights and therefore did not knowingly and intelligently waive them but that the trial judge’s error in admitting the custodial statements was not prejudicial. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) the Court of Appeals erred in finding that the admission of Defendant’s interrogation violated his Miranda rights; but (2) the Court of Appeals correctly upheld Defendant’s convictions and the judgment entered on those convictions. View "State v. Knight" on Justia Law

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The record should be further developed in this case before a reviewing court can adequately address Defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Defendant was convicted of robbery with a dangerous weapon. The court of appeals affirmed. Defendant later filed a motion for appropriate relief (MAR) arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction and that his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise this claim on appeal. Without conducting an evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied Defendant’s MAR. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Defendant received ineffective assistance of appellate counsel in his first appeal and that Defendant’s conviction would have been reversed had his counsel raised the sufficiency of the evidence issue in his first appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the record before the court was insufficient to determine whether Defendant received ineffective assistance of counsel. View "State v. Todd" on Justia Law

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In 2013, the General Assembly established the Eugenics Asexualization and Sterilization Compensation Program to provide compensation to any claimant who was asexualized or sterilized involuntarily under the authority of the now-dismantled Eugenics Board of North Carolina. The claimant in this case was sterilized involuntarily in 1956 and died in 2010. Claimant’s estate (Claimant) filed a claim pursuant to the Compensation Program to the North Carolina Industrial Commission. The Commission denied the claim because Claimant was not alive on June 30, 2013, as required by N.C. Gen. Stat. 143B-426.50(1). Claimant appealed to the full Commission, raising a constitutional challenge to subsection 143B-426.50(1). The full Commission denied the claim but certified the constitutional question to the Court of Appeals. Claimant then appealed. The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the appeal because any challenge to the constitutionality of an act of the General Assembly must first be submitted to a three-judge panel of the Superior Court of Wake County. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Claimant’s appeal based on a constitutional challenge was properly before the Court of Appeals, which had appellate jurisdiction over the appeal. Remanded. View "In re Redmond" on Justia Law

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In 2013, legislation was enacted requiring the City of Asheville to involuntarily transfer the assets it uses to operate a public water system to a newly-created metropolitan water and sewerage district. The City filed a complaint and motion seeking injunctive relief, alleging that the involuntary transfer provisions of the legislation were unconstitutional. The trial court concluded that the involuntary transfer violated various provisions of the North Carolina Constitution and permanently enjoined the State from enforcing the legislation. The court of appeals reversed, in part, the trial court’s order and remanded to the trial court for the entry of summary judgment in favor of the State. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the challenged legislation constitutes a prohibited local act relating to health and sanitation in violation of Article II, Section 24(1)(a) of the North Carolina Constitution. View "City of Asheville v. State" on Justia Law