May a Presentment and Indictment be Issued the Same Day?

A few short years ago, a criminal law practitioner could be forgiven for not knowing what a presentment was—much less how it might properly be utilized. Presentments rarely preceded indictments before 2016. But after the court of appeals held in State v. Turner, ___ N.C. App. ___, 793 S.E.2d 287, 290 (2016), reversed, ___ N.C. ___, 817 S.E.2d 173 (2018), that citations and magistrate’s orders did not toll the two-year statute of limitations for misdemeanors, presentments in impaired driving cases proliferated. By obtaining a presentment from a grand jury, followed by an indictment, the State could ensure the statute of limitations was tolled. That, in turn, eliminated any requirement that the charges be resolved by trial or plea within two years of the date of the alleged offense. Though Turner was reversed by the state supreme court in 2018, the rising use of presentments following the court of appeals’ decision led to increased scrutiny of the procedure.

Some questioned whether a so-called presentment drafted by a district attorney and presented to a grand jury simultaneously with an indictment really was a presentment within the meaning of the state constitution and the criminal procedure act. Last December, the court of appeals in State v. Baker, ___ N.C. App. ___ (2018), considered this argument and weighed in on the proper use of presentments.

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