The Surest Point of All the Law: Evolving Standards in State v. Lancaster

Reminiscent of the Wars of the Roses, our Supreme Court’s recent opinion in State v. Lancaster, __ N.C. __, 895 S.E.2d 337 (2023), concerns an offense first codified in 1328 during the reign of Edward III.  The common law crime of going armed to the terror of the public, our Supreme Court there held, does not require allegation or proof that the conduct occurred on a public highway; hence, there was no facial defect in an indictment omitting this putative element.  Other elements not explicitly stated in the same indictment – for the purpose of terrifying, in a manner that would naturally terrify – were “clearly inferable.”  This post examines Lancaster to ascertain the direction of our Supreme Court’s avowed retreat from archaic pleading requirements.

Read more