Implementing State v. Rieger: The One-Set-of-Costs-Per-Sentencing-Episode Rule

In State v. Rieger, ___ N.C. App. ___, 833 S.E.2d 699 (2019), the Court of Appeals held that court costs should be assessed only once for all related charges that are adjudicated together. I wrote about the case here. Today’s post looks at how the appellate courts have applied Rieger since it was decided last October.

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It’s Tax Season… For Drugs

I spent a few years working on drug cases when I was a prosecutor, so I was generally aware that North Carolina has a set of laws that impose taxes on “unauthorized substances.” See G.S. 105-113.105 – 113. Just like cigarettes, cars, or blue jeans, these unauthorized substances are commodities that people buy and sell, so they are subject to taxation by the state.

I was also aware that, not surprisingly, virtually no one pays these taxes or obtains the appropriate “tax stamps” to put on their drugs and moonshine. Instead, the laws are used primarily as a mechanism to pursue civil forfeiture of a defendant’s assets after he or she is convicted of a drug offense.

But recently, I began to wonder – are these laws purely theoretical? Is it even possible for drug dealers to comply? Does the Department of Revenue keep big rolls of stamps behind the counter, like a post office? What would happen if someone walked into a Revenue office one day and said “hello, will you sell me some tax stamps for illegal substances, please?”

I wanted to find out, so that’s exactly what I did.

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Some Additional Thoughts on the New Cost and Fine Waiver Procedures

With the work of the court system picking up steam after its holiday pause—perhaps with an additional interruption for winter weather in some parts of the state (stay safe, everyone)—questions are rolling in about the new notice and hearing procedures for waivers and remissions of costs, fines, and restitution.

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I’m Just a Civil Judgment

Many of you probably remember the “I’m Just a Bill” segment from the Schoolhouse Rock! series. It explained—through a musical number that will be stuck in your head all day—how a bill becomes a law. I didn’t compose a song, but in today’s post I’ll attempt to explain what actually happens to the thousands of civil judgments entered for various monetary obligations in criminal court.

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2017 Cost Waiver Reports Available

The Administrative Office of the Courts recently submitted two reports on criminal cost waivers to the General Assembly. The first report covers court cost waivers under G.S. 7A-304(a). The other is about costs remitted upon remand from superior court to district court under G.S. 15A-1431(h). Both reports sort waivers by district or county and by individual judge.

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