Don’t Eat Crack Cocaine

In State v. Ward, the North Carolina Supreme Court held that North Carolina’s prosecutors cannot rely upon a visual examination of alleged drugs to show to a finder of fact – a jury, for instance – that the drugs are in fact contraband. In other words, visual inspection of drugs is an insufficiently reliable method that the Supreme Court has excluded it as a method of proof.

There are certain exceptions to this rule. For instance, marijuana is sufficiently unique in smell and look that North Carolina courts have routinely held that an officer may testify that what he observed was pot based on his experience and training.

Now the North Carolina Court of Appeals has established another exception. In State v. James (September 20, 2011), the Court of Appeals heard a case where a police arrested a person suspected of Felony Possession With Intent to Sell and/or Deliver Cocaine (PWISD) (Crack).

The police conducted a field test – Narcotics Field Test Kit (NIK Test) – of the substance which preliminary identified the sustance as cocaine base (crack).

In addition, the police officer visually identified the substance as crack cocaine.

However, before the state could test the material in an actual laboratory, the Defendant ate the crack cocaine.

The Court of Appeals held that, having eaten the crack cocaine, the Defendant forfeited his right to challenge the admission of the police officers’ testimony based on the Defendant’s own wrongdoing.

The lesson here: Don’t Eat Crack.

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Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.