Last July, the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) launched a new application for generating criminal process and pleadings: eWarrants. This application replaced NCAWARE and is part of the court system’s migration to eCourts, a digital system that will replace the current paper-based system for maintaining court records. Given the scope of eWarrants, it may not be surprising to hear that the rollout was not seamless. Indeed, the thousands of magistrates, clerks, deputy clerks, and assistant clerks who became immediate users of the application soon identified defects and issues, many of which have subsequently been resolved. One such issue was the application’s failure, in certain circumstances, to print out charging language on criminal process and pleadings such as magistrate’s orders and warrants for arrest. When the issuing official does not immediately detect and remedy such an error, a judge who later holds a first appearance on such a charge may wonder how to proceed. This post will review the judge’s options in such a circumstance. Continue reading
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The North Carolina General Assembly revisited the authority of magistrates to conduct first appearances in Session Law 2022-6 (H243). The General Assembly ratified the law on 3/11/2022, and the Governor signed the legislation on 3/17/2022. The fifty-two page act is fairly typical session wrap up legislation. It makes numerous changes across statutes addressing many different legal topics. Part VIII of the law makes changes in the courts area.
In North Carolina, a district court judge normally conducts first appearance for criminal defendants. The clerk of court conducts first appearance only when a district court judge is not available during the designated time periods.
The General Assembly amended G.S. 15A-601 to change the law of first appearance twice in late 2021. Among changes in the General Assembly’s first revision was an amendment that would permit a magistrate to conduct first appearance if the clerk is not available. In subsequent legislation, the General Assembly removed that authorization for magistrates before it became effective.
See this blog post for details about previous changes to first appearance during this legislative session.
With Section 8.4 of Session Law 2022-6 (H243) the General Assembly has again amended G.S. 15A-601(e) to permit a magistrate to conduct first appearance if the clerk is not available.
The General Assembly made Session Law 2022-6 (H243) effective retroactively to July 1, 2021. Application of that date to this session’s first appearance changes is complicated. Previous amendments to G.S. 15A-601–to which this amendment applies–were effective for criminal processes served on or after December 1, 2021. Practically, it’s difficult to see how the new July 1, 2021 effective date has much impact. My view is that the amendment is effective immediately, but we’ll see if the Revisor of Statutes has something different to say in the final codification of this statute.
You can find previous posts about first appearance by searching this site.
In this earlier blog post, I discussed changes made to North Carolina’s first appearance process, to be effective for criminal processes served on or after December 1, 2021. Additional amendments have been made in new legislation.
In Session Law 2021-182 (S183), Section 2.5.(a) revised G.S. 15A-601 as previously amended by S.L. 2021-138.
Defendants charged with misdemeanors and in custody to get first appearance
This amendment does not affect a significant change made by S.L. 2021-138–the expansion of first appearance to include defendants charged with misdemeanors who are in custody. Under current law, only criminal defendants with felony charges are required to get first appearance.
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I recently posted, on the UNC School of Government Criminal Justice Innovation Lab website, a model implementation plan designed to help stakeholders comply with S.L. 2021-138. That law requires first appearances for all in-custody defendants within 72 hours after the defendant is taken into custody or at the first regular session of district court in the county, whichever occurs first. The new law becomes effective December 1, 2021 and applies to criminal processes served on or after that date. Continue reading →
On September 2, 2021, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed Session Law 2021-138 (S300) into law. The law makes wide ranging changes to the state’s criminal law and procedure, including adjustments to satellite-based monitoring based on Grady v. North Carolina, limitations on the enactment of local ordinance crimes, and revised standards for the hiring, certification, and decertification of law enforcement officers. The law has various effective dates, depending on the particular provision. This post will concentrate on changes to first appearance requirements. My colleagues will address other aspects of the changes made by this law in future blog posts. Continue reading →
In a series of posts I’ve been discussing bail reform, including highlighting pilot programs underway in North Carolina. In 2018, I worked with stakeholders in North Carolina’s Judicial District 30B (Haywood and Jackson counties) to help them identify and implement a basket of pretrial reforms. One of the implemented reforms involves providing first appearances for in-custody defendants charged with misdemeanors and Class H and I felonies (highest charge) or arrested on a probation violation within 72 hours of arrest or at the first regular session of the district court in the county, whichever occurs first. The new procedure went into effect on January 1, 2019. Continue reading →
Diverse teams of justice system stakeholders in New Hanover, Orange, and Robeson counties participated in the North Carolina Court Appearance Project, seeking to improve local court appearance rates and develop better responses to nonappearances. The teams examined local court and jail data, reflected on court practices and procedures, and crafted policy solutions suited to the needs of their communities and courtrooms. We recently released a report describing the project teams’ initial efforts. This post summarizes key takeaways from that report.
How does a case proceed when a juvenile is charged with a homicide offense? In classic lawyer fashion, the answer is that it depends. In almost all instances, the case will begin as a juvenile matter. However, the path the case follows once the juvenile case begins, and whether the case is ultimately adjudicated as a juvenile matter or prosecuted as a criminal matter, depends on the age of the juvenile at the time of the offense and the specific offense charged. Continue reading →
In January 2020, stakeholders in North Carolina’s Twenty-First Judicial District (Forsyth County) implemented a pretrial reform initiative designed to reduce unnecessary detentions of individuals charged with the lowest-level offenses. Specific attention was paid to those detained solely due to an inability to pay bail and not because of their risk to the community. To address this issue, local leaders developed and implemented a new structured decision-making tool for magistrates and judges to use when making bail decisions. Key elements of the tool include: Continue reading →
In this earlier blog post, I provided a then-current overview of criminal law and related legislation enacted by the North Carolina General Assembly this legislative session. Since then, there have been a few more bills enacted that affect criminal law, criminal procedure, and motor vehicle law, as well as some amendments to previously enacted bills. Continue reading →