Case Summaries: N.C. Court of Appeals (Dec. 19, 2023, and Jan. 2, 2024)

This post summarizes the published criminal opinions from the North Carolina Court of Appeals released on December 19, 2023, and January 2, 2024. These summaries will be added to Smith’s Criminal Case Compendium, a free and searchable database of case summaries from 2008 to the present.

Can I Take a Look at Your Phone?

Inquisitive police officers regularly ask suspects questions like “Can I take a look at your phone?” or “Can I see your phone?” These on-the-street requests may give rise to legal questions in court. For example, if the suspect hands over the phone in response, does that provide consent for the officer to search the phone? … Read more

Court of Appeals Rules That Consent to Search Backpack, Given after Repeated Requests, Was Not Voluntary

Last month, the Court of Appeals ruled that police coerced a suspect into agreeing to let them search his backpack. Many of the traditional hallmarks of coercion, such as threatening language or the brandishing of weapons, were absent in this case, making it noteworthy for officers, prosecutors, and defense attorneys alike. The case is State … Read more


New Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence

Last month, the North Carolina General Assembly passed S.L. 2023-14 (S 20) which largely covers changes to abortion laws. Within this bill is also a newly defined “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,” which takes effect for offenses committed on or after December 1, 2023. This post discusses the utility of the new offense and the … Read more

Spring 2023 Update on the Constitutionality of Gun Laws

Last fall, I wrote a post about the litigation over the constitutionality of various firearms restrictions in the wake of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, 597 U.S. __, 142 S. Ct. 2111 (2022). Recall that in Bruen, the Supreme Court announced a new interpretive approach for Second Amendment claims: courts must … Read more

News Roundup

Next door in South Carolina, disgraced personal injury attorney and part-time prosecutor Alex Murdaugh has been convicted of the murders of his wife and son. The case has been in the news partly because of what some see as the exotic lifestyle of the Murdaugh family, with the murders taking place on the family’s 1700 … Read more


Right to a Public Trial

The Sixth Amendment provides that a person accused of a crime “shall enjoy a public trial.” This right is grounded in the belief that judges and prosecutors will carry out their duties more responsibly in open court than they might in secret proceedings as well as the notion that a public trial encourages witnesses to … Read more