What Happens When the Jury Is Instructed on the Wrong Theory?

Suppose the trial court, over the defendant’s objection, instructs the jury on a theory of a crime that is not supported by the evidence. Is the defendant entitled to automatic reversal on appeal? Or, alternatively, must the appellate court evaluate whether the erroneous instruction prejudiced the defendant? The North Carolina Supreme Court answered these questions in State v. Malachi, ___ N.C. ___ (2018), published last Friday, and applied its answer in State v. Fowler, ___ N.C. ___ (2018), decided the same day.

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My Girlfriend’s AK-47

The court of appeals just reversed a defendant’s conviction for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. It’s a case with interesting facts that raises questions about whether the owner or the driver of a vehicle is responsible for its contents. State v. Bailey began when two Roxboro officers heard several gunshots at an … Read more

Man’s Constructive Possession of the Contents of a Woman’s Purse

May a man be held criminally responsible for the contents of his girlfriend’s purse? Yes, on the facts of State v. Mitchell, the court of appeals ruled yesterday. In Mitchell, an officer stopped the defendant for speeding. The officer ordered the defendant and his girlfriend out of the car. Subsequent events, not highly relevant here, … Read more

Interesting Constructive Possession Case

The last batch of opinions from the court of appeals included a really interesting constructive possession case.The facts of State v. Slaughter, __ N.C. App. __ (2011), are as follows. Officers executed a search warrant at a mobile home. The defendant did not live in the home but was present at the time of the … Read more


Constructive Possession of Drugs

One of the most frequently litigated issues in North Carolina drug cases is constructive possession. Jeff wrote about one case (here) over a year ago. My research shows no less than eleven published cases in the last two years (click here for a full case listing in my online Criminal Case compendium), including one earlier … Read more