Model Implementation Plan for New First Appearances Required by S.L. 2021-138

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.

Although first appearances have been required for in-custody defendants charged with felonies, S.L. 2021-138 extends that requirement to in-custody defendants charged with misdemeanors and shortens the time within which the first appearance must be held, from 96 to 72 hours. While some North Carolina jurisdictions have been holding first appearances for in-custody defendants charged with misdemeanors for some time, that is not true for all jurisdictions, particularly rural ones where district court is held less frequently than in more urban districts. My new model implementation plan is designed to support local stakeholders as they comply with the requirements of S.L. 2021-138, particularly those in districts that have never held first appearances for in-custody misdemeanor defendants. In the past, the Lab has supported stakeholders’ efforts to implement expanded first appearance proceedings. I developed this model implementation plan based on the jurisdiction-specific implementation plans we helped stakeholders develop in those projects. It is however a model. Adapt or modify it as appropriate, based on local needs and/or conditions. The model assumes that appearances will be conducted by a district court judge. The model implementation plan is here.

If you have suggestions or improvements to the model implementation plan, please send them to me at