Must Officers Now Arrest, Rather Than Cite, for Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession?

This session, the General Assembly made some changes to the statute governing the fingerprinting of criminal defendants. Inside and outside the School of Government, people are divided about whether the statute now requires officers to arrest, rather than cite, individuals for misdemeanor marijuana possession offenses.

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Assembly Line Justice

Have you ever been convicted of or pleaded nolo contendere (no contest) to any violation of the law other than minor traffic tickets?

Millions of people, many of whom were convicted of petty crimes, must answer this question (a favorite of employers) in the affirmative. Indeed, the Wall Street Journal reported in a recent article on the processing of misdemeanor crimes that nearly 1 in 3 Americans has a criminal record.  While those records are based on arrests, not convictions, a substantial percentage of people charged with misdemeanor offenses are convicted.  North Carolina’s district courts, for example, disposed of more than 450,000 misdemeanor (non-traffic) criminal cases in the 2013-2014 fiscal year.  A third of those cases resulted in convictions. 

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No Revocation Solely for Conviction of a Class 3 Misdemeanor

When I talk about the “commit no criminal offense” probation condition, it’s almost always about one particular issue. May a pending charge (or even uncharged conduct) be considered as a violation of that condition? Or must there be a conviction for that offense before it may be considered? I talk about that issue at length … Read more


A Fine Sentence for Class 3 Misdemeanors

I thought I’d take a few minutes and jot down some questions and answers about the new fine-only punishment scheme for Class 3 misdemeanors for many defendants (enacted as part of the 2013 Appropriations Act). Several hours later—after thinking about the different permutations, reading several cases, talking with patient colleagues, and pondering further—I came up … Read more

Indicting for a Misdemeanor in Superior Court After a Grand Jury Presentment

District court has original jurisdiction to try misdemeanors, so a misdemeanor usually arrives in superior court after a defendant is convicted of a misdemeanor in district court and appeals for a trial de novo in superior court. However, there are exceptions to the district court’s original jurisdiction that allow a superior court to handle a … Read more


State v. Marino Finds No Error in Denying Defendant Source Code

The North Carolina Court of Appeals decided its first breath-testing source code case yesterday.  The court in State v. Marino affirmed the trial court’s determination that the defendant had no right to examine the source code for the Intoximeter EC IR II, the instrument used to analyze his breath alcohol concentration after he was arrested … Read more

Misdemeanor Reclassification, the Right to Counsel, and the Budget

The legislature has agreed on a budget, and it contains some provisions that will impact misdemeanor sentencing and the appointment of counsel — potentially in tens of thousands of cases each year. Status of the budget. The current budget bill is S 402. It is available here. The accompanying “money report,” which provides narrative explanations … Read more

Improper Periods of Probation

I haven’t done any sort of official tally, but I think the most common sentencing error in North Carolina might be sentencing the defendant to an improper period of probation. It came up again this week in State v. Wheeler, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to write about it. The basic rule is … Read more

Consecutive Sentences for Misdemeanors

A while ago, Alyson Grine and I wrote a post about consecutive sentences for misdemeanors. In it, we discussed the rule that when a court elects to impose consecutive sentences for two or more misdemeanors, the cumulative length of the sentences of imprisonment may not exceed twice the maximum sentence authorized for the class and … Read more