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.
On Jan. 7, 2020, the Court of Appeals decided State v. Schalow (“Schalow II”), ___ N.C. App. ___, 837 S.E.2d 593, temp. stay allowed, ___ N.C. ___, 837 S.E.2d 123 (Jan. 27, 2020), ruling that the State’s third prosecution of the defendant was vindictive and violated the rules for joinder of offenses. I previously wrote about the Court of Appeals decision in Schalow I regarding a double jeopardy issue (on which the defendant also prevailed), here. The vindictive prosecution holding of Schalow II is itself significant, and I encourage everyone to read the opinion in full for that part of the case alone. In this post, though, I wanted to focus on the joinder issue. This issue in the Schalow II opinion represents the first time that our appellate division has ever granted relief for a joinder of offenses violation.
A few years ago, my babysitter texted me that she was going to be late because she had been pulled over by a police officer on the way to our house. When she arrived, I was in full-on substitute parent and attorney mode. Are you okay, I asked? What happened? She was nonplussed by the whole affair. Her registration had expired a few months before. She hadn’t noticed. The officer explained that if she renewed her registration and provided proof of that to the assistant district attorney on her court date, the charges would be dismissed. Oh, I said (slightly deflated that she needed absolutely no input from me—a so-called expert). But she did have to go to court to clear all this up. And that required parking in downtown Raleigh on a weekday, finding her way to the appropriate courtroom and standing in line to pay her ticket. A new procedure, soon to be rolled out statewide by the Administrative Office of the Courts, will do away with this last step, preventing hundreds of thousands of citizens from having to appear in court to have their motor vehicle law charges dismissed upon proof of compliance with the law.
A wise man once said that “[e]xcept for death penalty cases, no sentence requires more documentation” than a sentence imposed for the misdemeanor offense of driving while impaired. Ben F. Loeb, Jr. and James C. Drennan, Motor Vehicle Law and The Law of Impaired Driving in North Carolina 81 (Institute of Government 2000 ed.). As … Read more