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State v. Lofton

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

May 1, 2018

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
RAMELLE MILEK LOFTON

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 22 January 2018.

          Appeal by Defendant from judgment entered 20 July 2016 by Judge Martin B. McGee in Superior Court, Wayne County No. 15 CRS 050319.

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General Allison A. Angell, for the State.

          William D. Spence for Defendant. Mc

          GEE, Chief Judge.

         Ramelle Milek Lofton ("Defendant") was indicted 2 May 2016 on charges of manufacturing a controlled substance pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-95(a)(1), possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia.[1] These charges arose out of events that occurred on 20 January 2015, when officers from the Goldsboro Police Department executed a search warrant for Defendant's residence. Defendant was tried at the 18 July 2016 criminal session of Wayne County Superior Court. The jury was instructed on possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, as well as manufacturing a controlled substance and the lesser included offense of attempting to manufacture a controlled substance. See State v. Clark, 137 N.C.App. 90, 96-97, 527 S.E.2d 319, 323 (2000) (attempt is a lesser included offense of the underlying charge). Defendant was found guilty on 20 July 2016 on the charges of attempting to manufacture a controlled substance and possession of marijuana. He was acquitted on the charge of possession of drug paraphernalia. Defendant appeals.

         In Defendant's sole argument, he contends that "[t]he trial court erred in denying [his] motion to dismiss the charge of attempting to manufacture a controlled substance[.]" We agree, though on jurisdictional grounds not raised by Defendant.

         We hold that the indictment charging Defendant with manufacturing marijuana was fatally defective.

"North Carolina law has long provided that '[t]here can be no trial, conviction, or punishment for a crime without a formal and sufficient accusation. In the absence of an accusation the court acquires no jurisdiction whatever, and if it assumes jurisdiction a trial and conviction are a nullity.'" "[W]here an indictment is alleged to be invalid on its face, thereby depriving the trial court of [subject matter] jurisdiction, a challenge to that indictment may be made at any time, even if it was not contested in the trial court." This Court "review[s] the sufficiency of an indictment de novo."

State v. Harris, 219 N.C.App. 590, 593, 724 S.E.2d 633, 636 (2012) (citations omitted) (alterations in the original). Defendant was indicted on the manufacturing charge by the following relevant language:

[O]n or about the 20th day of January, 2015 in Wayne County, [Defendant] unlawfully, willfully and feloniously did manufacture a controlled substance in violation of the North Carolina Controlled Substances Act, by producing, preparing, propagating and processing a controlled substance. The controlled substance in question consisted of marijuana[.]

(Emphasis added).[2]

          N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-95(a)(1) (2017) is the statute pertaining to the illegal manufacture of controlled substances:

N.C. G.S. § 90-95(a)(1) makes it unlawful to "manufacture, sell or deliver, or possess with intent to manufacture, sell or deliver, a controlled substance." The intent of the legislature in enacting N.C. G.S. § 90-95(a)(1) was twofold: "(1) to prevent the manufacture of controlled substances, and (2) to prevent the ...

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