Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals dismissing the State's appeal from the trial court's order granting J.C.'s expunction with respect to his conviction for the offense of indecent liberties with a child, holding that the State has no right of appeal in orders granting expunctions under N.C. Gen. Stat. 15A-145.5. J.C. was granted an expunction of arrest, trial, and conviction record from a prior conviction and from previously dismissed charges. The trial court granted the expunction under section 15A-145.5. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the legislature did not give the State the right to appeal an expunction under section 15A-145.5 and did not amend section 15A-1445 to include this right. View "State v. J.C." on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals vacating Defendant's conviction for manufacturing marijuana, holding that the indictment returned for the purpose of charging Defendant with manufacturing marijuana was not fatally defective. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred by denying his motion to dismiss the manufacturing marijuana charge for insufficiency of the evidence. The court of appeals vacated Defendant's conviction, concluding that the indictment was fatally defective because it failed to allege that Defendant acted with an "intent to distribute." The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the indictment at issue sufficed to give the trial court jurisdiction to enter judgment against Defendant based upon his conviction for manufacturing marijuana given that it also alleged that Defendant manufactured marijuana by "producing," "propagating," and "processing" it. View "State v. Lofton" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court modified and affirmed the decision of the court of appeals determining that the trial court did not commit prejudicial error by allowing the jury, without consent of the parties, to review certain photographs that had been admitted into evidence in the jury room and by instructing the jury concerning the effect of a determination that Defendant was the "aggressor" upon Defendant's right to act in self-defense, holding that there was no prejudicial error in the proceedings below. A jury returned a verdict convicting Defendant of second-degree murder. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) the trial court erred by allowing the jury to review photographs that had already been admitted into evidence in the jury room without Defendant's consent, but the error was not prejudicial; and (2) the trial court did not commit plain error by including a discussion of the "aggressor" doctrine in its instructions to the jury concerning Defendant's claim to have killed the victim in the exercise of his right of self-defense. View "State v. Mumma" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court held that the superseding indictment upon which Defendant was tried and convicted was facially defective, and thus failed to establish jurisdiction in the trial court, because it failed to name the victim. The indictment identified the alleged victim in this case as "Victim #1." Defendant was found guilty of sexual offense with a child by an adult offender. Before the court of appeals, Defendant argued that the indictment was invalid because it identified the victim as "Victim #1" rather than naming the victim as directed by the short-form indictment statute for the offense. The court of appeals concluded that the indictment was valid because the identity of the victim could be ascertained by reference to other documents in the record. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) use of the phrase "Victim #1" does not constitute "naming the victim"; and (2) facially validity is determined by evaluating only the allegations in the criminal pleading. View "State v. White" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the trial court imposing lifetime satellite-based monitoring (SBM) upon Defendant without prejudice to the State's ability to file another application for SBM, holding that the trial court committed error relating to a substantial right. The trial court ordered him to enroll in SBM for life upon his release from prison. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred in imposing lifetime SBM because it failed to determine whether the monitoring effectuated a reasonable search under the Fourth Amendment. In response, the State asserted that Defendant waived the ability to challenge this constitutional issue on appeal by failing to preserve it below. The court of appeals concluded that Defendant had properly preserved the Fourth Amendment issue and, alternatively, that Appellate Rule 2 allowed it to review the issue. The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) Defendant waived his ability to raise the issue of the imposition of SBM on constitutional grounds; (2) the court of appeals properly invoked Rule 2 to review the unpreserved issue; and (3) where the State conceded that the trial court committed error relating to a substantial right, the court of appeals did not abuse its discretion by invoking Rule 2. View "State v. Bursell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals holding that the State's remarks during its closing argument in this criminal case did not entitle Defendant to a new trial but reversed the court of appeals' determination that a short-form indictment insufficiently charged attempted first-degree murder, holding that the indictment was sufficient to vest the trial court with subject-matter jurisdiction to try Defendant for attempted first-degree murder. At issue were whether the indictment was sufficient to vest the trial court with jurisdiction to try Defendant for attempted first-degree murder when the wording of the indictment did not precisely duplicate the language of the relevant statute and whether the State's characterizations during its closing argument were so grossly improper that the trial court should have intervened ex mero motu. The Supreme Court reinstated Defendant's conviction for attempted first-degree murder, holding (1) the use of the term "slay" instead of "murder" in an indictment that also includes an allegation of "malice aforethought" complies with constitutional and statutory requirements for valid murder offense indictments and serves its functional purposes with regard to both the defendant and the court; and (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in declining to intervene ex mero motu during the State's closing argument. View "State v. Tart" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals vacating Defendant’s conviction for felony littering upon concluding that the indictment failed to allege an essential element of the statutory crime and was fatally defective, holding that the indictment was facially invalid. In concluding that the indictment was fatally defect, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over Defendant, and therefore, the conviction must be vacated. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that N.C. Gen. Stat. 14-399(a)(1), which requires that the accused be an unauthorized person depositing refuse on land not designated by the State for such a use, is an essential element of the crime of felony littering rather than an affirmative defense. View "State v. Rankin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court modified and affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals concluding that Defendant’s inculpatory statements to law enforcement should have been suppressed but that the error was harmless, holding that the trial court correctly concluded that, under the totality of the circumstances, Defendant’s inculpatory statements were voluntary. On appeal, the Court of Appeals determined that Defendant’s inculpatory statements were involuntary and inadmissible because they were given under the influence of fear or hope caused by the interrogating officers’ statements and actions but that the admission of the statements was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt due to the overwhelming additional evidence of Defendant’s guilt. The Supreme Court modified and affirmed, holding (1) the trial court erred in merging the Miranda and voluntariness inquiries; (2) Defendant did not preserve his argument that officers employed the “question first, warn later” technique to obtain Defendant’s confession; and (3) the trial court correctly concluded that the Miranda requirements were met and that Defendant’s statements to the officers were voluntarily made. View "State v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals reversing and vacating Defendant’s conviction of being a felon in possession of a firearm and reversing the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence of the firearm, holding that both the search and seizure of Defendant in this case were supported by individualized suspicion and thus did not violate the Fourth Amendment. On appeal, the Court of Appeals held that the search was invalid because it was not supported by reasonable suspicion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the rule announced in Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692 (1981), justified the seizure because Defendant posed a real threat to the safe and efficient completion of the search; and (2) the warrantless detention and search of Defendant did not violate the Fourth Amendment. View "State v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals vacating the judgment entered by the trial court convicting Defendant of possession of a firearm by a felon and having attained habitual felon status on the grounds that the trial court erred in instructing the jury that it could convict Defendant based upon a constructive possession theory that lacked sufficient evidentiary support. The Supreme Court held that the court of appeals erred by holding (1) challenges to jury instructions allowing juries to convict criminal defendants on the basis of legal theories that lack evidentiary support are not subject to harmless error analysis, and (2) even if such a harmlessness analysis were appropriate, there was a reasonable possibility that the outcome at Defendant’s trial would have been different had the trial court refrained from allowing the jury to convict Defendant on the basis of a constructive possession theory. Specifically, the Court held that there was not a reasonable possibility that, in the absence of the erroneous constructive possession instruction, the jury would have acquitted Defendant. View "State v. Malachi" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law