A Pink Shirt on Wednesday: State v. Singleton and the End of the Common Law Jurisdictional Indictment Rule

In its last batch of opinions, issued May 23, 2024, the North Carolina Supreme Court decided two indictment cases: State v. Singleton, No. 318PA22, __ N.C. __ (2024), and State v. Stewart, No. 23PA22, __ N.C. __ (2024). Stewart closely follows a recent precedent (In re J.U., 384 N.C. 618 (2023), discussed here), holding that nonconsensual sexual contact necessarily implies force, so an indictment alleging nonconsent need not also allege “the element of force.” Stewart, Slip Op. 8. Singleton, however, is by far the more significant. Beyond finding no defect in the indictment under review, the Supreme Court there announced the demise of the common law rule that an indictment that fails to allege all the elements of the offense is jurisdictionally defective. This post examines the new framework of indictment defects inaugurated by Singleton.

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