Plain Feel, Pill Bottles, and Probable Cause: State v. Jackson

A common point of confusion among law enforcement and the public is about the use of unlabeled pill bottles. Is it legal to possess prescription medicine in a container other than the original bottle with the prescription affixed? Does discovering an unlabeled pill bottle justify seizing and searching it to see if it contains contraband? Can a pill bottle be removed from a pocket during a frisk based on plain feel? Does it provide reasonable suspicion or probable cause to search or arrest a suspect? A case decided by the Court of Appeals earlier this month, State v. Jackson, No. COA23-727; ___ N.C. App.  ____; ___ S.E.2d ___ (Mar. 19, 2024), sheds some light on these questions. Read on for the details.

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One Unbroken Chain of Events: The Doctrine of Continuous Transaction in State v. Jackson

Robbery is larceny from the person by violence or intimidation.  The exact relationship between the taking and the violence is vexing.  There is authority for the proposition that the use of force must be such as to induce the victim to part with the property.  State v. Richardson, 308 N.C. 470, 476, 302 S.E.2d 799, 803 (1983).  A recent opinion of the Court of Appeals reminds us, however, that the violence need not coincide with the taking when there is a continuous transaction.  See State v. Jackson, No. COA23-636, 2024 WL 1172327 (N.C. Ct. App. Mar. 19, 2024).  In such cases, the evidence may support a conviction for robbery, even if the victim is incapacitated, unconscious, or dead.  This post explores the doctrine of continuous transaction.

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Within the Four Corners: Scouring Indictments for Missing Elements in State v. Jackson and State v. Coffey.

Two recent opinions from the Court of Appeals illustrate the remarkable controversy currently underway over the specificity required of indictments.  In State v. Coffey, No. COA22-883, 2024 WL 675881 (N.C. Ct. App. Feb. 20, 2024), our Court of Appeals ruled an indictment for felony obstruction of justice was facially defective for failure to allege an essential element of the offense: the purpose of hindering or impeding a judicial or official proceeding or investigation.  By contrast, in State v. Jackson, No. COA22-280, 2024 WL 925480 (N.C. Ct. App. Mar. 5, 2024), our Court of Appeals ruled an indictment for habitual misdemeanor assault was sufficient though it failed explicitly to allege an element: causing physical injury.  This post attempts to reconcile the divergent analytical approaches taken in Coffey and Jackson.

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State v. Jackson and Pedestrian Evasion

The court of appeals recently decided a case about when a pedestrian’s efforts to avoid an officer provide reasonable suspicion for an investigative stop. The type of encounter involved is reasonably common and the case features a dissent, so it’s worth exploring. The facts. The case is State v. Jackson, and it arose at 9:00 … Read more