Special Sentencing Rules

Aside from a few notable exceptions (impaired driving, drug trafficking, and first-degree murder), most North Carolina crimes are sentenced under Structured Sentencing. Some crimes have additional sentencing wrinkles—a kind of Structured Sentencing plus—that kick in by statute. Today’s post is a noncomprehensive list of some of the most common offense-specific sentencing provisions.

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The “Evidence Necessary to Prove an Element” Limitation on Aggravating Factors

Under G.S. 15A-1340.16(d), “[e]vidence necessary to prove an element of the offense shall not be used to prove any factor in aggravation.” The general idea behind that rule is to prevent the defendant from getting extra punishment via an aggravating factor for something that is inherent in the crime of conviction. A similar prohibition existed under Fair Sentencing, so we have a relatively large body of case law that helps us understand the rule.

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Barlow Strikes Back

After Justice Reinvestment, all North Carolina felonies are predicate felonies for certain federal purposes. That was the Fourth Circuit’s recent conclusion in United States v. Barlow. The decision significantly rolls back the court’s 2011 ruling in United States v. Simmons, 649 F.3d 237 (4th Cir. 2011), which held that many low-level North Carolina offenses were … Read more

Jail Credit in DWI Cases

Last week I got drawn into a discussion about a North Carolina local government official convicted of DWI. The question was whether he was getting “special treatment” when his 60-day sentences were cut in half to 30 days. As most readers of this blog know, there’s nothing special about that: most active DWI sentences (except for aggravated level one) are effectively cut in half by Good Time, pursuant to N.C. Department of Public Safety administrative policy. Today’s post considers a related wrinkle: when a DWI defendant has jail credit, should that credit be applied before or after the sentence is “cut in half”?

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Habitualized Sex Crimes

Suppose a defendant is convicted of a Class F–I felony that requires registration as a sex offender. He is also convicted as a habitual felon. When sentencing the defendant as a habitual felon, the court obviously will select a minimum sentence appropriate for an offense that is four classes higher than the underlying felony. But what maximum sentence should the court impose? Should it use the regular maximum sentence from G.S. 15A-1340.17(e), or the elevated sex offender maximum from subsection (f)?

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