Articles Posted in Criminal 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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Defendant was charged with six offenses pertaining to the manufacture, possession and sale or delivery of illegal drugs. Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence seized during the search of her home, asserting that the warrant obtained to conduct the search was not supported by probable cause. The trial court granted the motion to suppress. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under the totality of the circumstances, the magistrate in this case had a substantial basis to find that probable cause existed to issue the challenged search warrant to search Defendant’s home. View "State v. Allman" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Defendant was indicted for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of a weapon of mass destruction, and attaining habitual felon status. The indictment listed the underlying felony as attempted assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, with Defendant having pled guilty in 2005. The 2005 conviction was also listed as one supporting a finding of habitual felon status. The jury found Defendant guilty of the charges. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding (1) attempted assault is not a recognized criminal offense in North Carolina, and therefore, Defendant’s 2005 conviction could not support the convictions for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and attaining habitual felon status; and (2) the trial court failed to identify and properly address an impasse that arose between Defendant and his counsel, and therefore, Defendant was entitled to a new trial on the possession of a weapon of mass destruction charge. The Supreme Court reversed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) the Court of Appeals incorrectly held that Defendant’s 2005 conviction could not support the convictions of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and attaining habitual felon status; and (2) it cannot be determined whether an absolute impasse existed in this case. Remanded. View "State v. Floyd" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of robbery with a dangerous weapon and first-degree murder. The trial judge sentenced Defendant to a term of life imprisonment without parole for his murder conviction. The court of appeals affirmed. Defendant later filed a motion for appropriate relief requesting that his life without parole sentence must be vacated and a constitutionally permissible sentence be imposed upon him instead. In support of his motion, Defendant relied upon Miller v. Alabama. The trial court denied Defendant’s motion on the basis that Miller did not apply retroactively to Defendant’s case. The case was certified for review. The Supreme Court ordered supplemental briefing for the purpose of allowing the parties to address the effect of the decision in Montgomery v. Louisiana. As the State conceded in its supplemental brief, the State’s non-retroactivity argument does not survive Montgomery. Therefore, Defendant was entitled to be resentenced, and the trial court’s order denying Defendant’s motion for appropriate relief is reversed. Remanded. View "State v. Perry" on Justia Law

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Defendant was indicted for felony larceny and conspiracy to commit felony larceny. Defendant admitted that he stole clothing from Belk’s Department Store, and Belk’s surveillance system captured the theft on video. The only contested issue at trial was the value and quantity of the stolen clothing shirts. During trial, the court admitted the surveillance video showing Defendant stealing shirts. The State called a regional loss prevention manager for Belk to authenticate the video for admission and to offer his opinion about the contents of the video. The jury found Defendant guilty. The Court of Appeals vacated Defendant’s conviction for felony larceny, concluding that the trial court erred by admitting the video because it was not properly authenticated and erred in admitting the witness’s estimate of the value of the stolen shirts because the testimony was not based on the witness’s firsthand knowledge or perception. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the State properly authenticated the video by presenting evidence that the video surveillance system was reliable and that the subject video had not been altered; and (2) because Defendant failed to make a timely objection to the witness’s testimony, he failed to preserve that issue for appellate review. View "State v. Snead" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant, a registered sex offender, was found guilty of failure to provide timely written notice of his change of address. Defendant appealed, arguing that the indictment was fatally defective because it identified the date of offense as a five month span, and therefore, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to hear his case. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss. Defendant appealed, arguing that his constitutional right to notice was violated because the indictment failed properly to allege the time period within which he was required to file his report to the appropriate sheriff when he changed his address. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant’s indictment was valid because it adequately apprised Defendant of the conduct that was the basis of the charge against him, and therefore, the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss. View "State v. Williams" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of conspiracy to traffic in more than four, but less than fourteen, grams of opium in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. 90-95(h)(4)(a). The court of appeals vacated the trial court’s judgment, concluding that the State presented insufficient evidence that Defendant conspired or formed an agreement with another individual to traffic in Oxycodone, an opium derivative. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the State presented sufficient evidence to support the jury’s determination that Defendant agreed with another individual to traffic in at least four, but not more than fourteen, grams of Oxycodone. Remanded. View "State v. Winkler" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of possession of a stolen motor vehicle. The trial court sentenced Defendant to an active term of eighty-four to 113 months’ imprisonment. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in denying his request for a jury instruction on unauthorized use of a motor vehicle as a lesser-included offense of possession of a stolen vehicle. The Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that it was bound by its decision in State v. Oliver, which held that unauthorized use of a motor vehicle is not a lesser-included offense of possession of a stolen vehicle. Defendant appealed, claiming that Oliver was wrongly decided because that decision incorrectly interpreted the Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Nickerson. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) the Oliver court misapprehended the Supreme Court’s decision in Nickerson, and therefore, Oliver is overruled to the extent that it is inconsistent with this opinion; but (2) nevertheless, the offense of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle is not a lesser-included offense of possession of a stolen vehicle, and therefore, the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s request to instruct the jury on unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. View "State v. Robinson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted for accessing a commercial social networking Web site as a registered sex offender in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. 14-202.5. Defendant appealed, arguing that section 14-202.5 is unconstitutional on its face or as applied to him. The Court of Appeals vacated Defendant’s conviction, concluding that the statute violates the First Amendment and thus is unconstitutional on its face and as applied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 14-202.5 is constitutional on its face, is constitutional as applied to Defendant, and is not unconstitutionally overbroad or vague. View "State v. Packingham" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with impaired driving. Defendant filed a pretrial motion to suppress evidence obtained after his arrest. At the suppression hearing held before Judge Abraham Jones, a material conflict in the evidence arose from a disagreement between two expert witnesses. Judge Jones orally granted Defendant’s motion but was not able to sign a proposed written order reflecting his decision before his term of office expired. Defendant subsequently presented the proposed order to Judge Orlando Hudson. Judge Hudson granted Defendant’s motion to suppress without hearing any evidence himself, finding that Defendant’s expert was credible and that no probable cause existed to support Defendant’s arrest. The Court of Appeals affirmed the oral ruling rendered by Judge Jones without reaching the State’s contention that Judge Hudson was without authority to sign the order. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) N.C. Gen. Stat. 15A-977 requires the judge who presides at the suppression hearing to make the findings of fact necessary to decide the motion; and (2) in this case, although a second judge made the findings of fact necessary to resolve the material conflict in the evidence presented at the suppression hearing, he did so without hearing any evidence himself, and therefore, a new suppression hearing was required. View "State v. Bartlett" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law