Tolling the Statute of Limitations after State v. Turner

The court of appeals held last month in State v. Turner, __ N.C. App. __, 793 S.E.2d 287 (2016), temp. stay allowed, __ N.C. __ (2016), that the issuance of a magistrate’s order charging a defendant with driving while impaired did not toll the two-year statute of limitations applicable to misdemeanors. The court reasoned that the provision setting forth the statute of limitations, G.S. 15-1, was explicit in requiring that an indictment or presentment be issued within two years. The court said that only one extension of this rule had been recognized: Pursuant to State v. Underwood, 244 N.C. 68 (1956), a defendant may be tried upon a misdemeanor charged by a warrant within two years of the offense. Because Turner was not charged by presentment, indictment or warrant and the State failed to “commence the prosecution of its case” within two years of the offense, the court of appeals ruled that the trial court properly dismissed the charges.

Last month’s blog commentary included a lively dispute about whether trial courts are bound to follow Turner given the state supreme court’s issuance of a stay. Regardless of whether Turner is binding precedent (and I don’t think it yet is, given the stay), trial courts may rely on its reasoning.  Moreover, the state supreme court may ultimately decline to review the opinion or, if it does grant review, may affirm its holding. Thus, prosecutors across the state are considering whether and how the State may satisfy or toll the statute of limitations for misdemeanors charged by citation or magistrate’s order.

There are at least four categories of such misdemeanors, and the implications for each are discussed below.

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Sitosky Update: The Latest on Probation Tolling

The continued supervision or imprisonment of hundreds of probationers and inmates is in question in light of State v. Sitosky, __ N.C. App. __, 767 S.E.2d 623 (2014), petition for discretionary review denied, __ N.C. __, 768 S.E.2d 847 (2015), and its interpretation of the probation tolling law. This post summarizes some of the latest developments related to the case.

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Is There a Tolling Donut Hole?

I wrote previously (here and here) about the “donut hole” in the probation law regarding absconding. In short, due to a wrinkle in legislative effective dates, persons on probation for an offense committed before December 1, 2011 who abscond after that date cannot be revoked for absconding. Today’s post considers whether a similar phenomenon arises … Read more

Probation Violation Hearings after Expiration: The Importance of a File Stamp

In general, a court only has jurisdiction to act on a probation case until the period of probation expires. There is a limited exception to that rule in G.S. 15A-1344(f). Under that law, the court may act on the case after it expires if the State filed a violation report with the clerk before expiration. … Read more

Probation Tolling Repealed

I’ve mentioned the big legislative changes pending in HB 642 (the Justice Reinvestment Act, which was discussed in House Appropriations this morning), but I haven’t written about an important criminal bill that’s already been signed into law. It’s Session Law 2011-62 (HB 270), Amend Conditions of Probation, which the Governor signed on May 3. The … Read more

Probation Violations Arising During a Tolled Period

I recently presented at the North Carolina Probation and Parole Association’s annual conference. I received a lot of really good questions, but the subject that raised the most questions (by far) was tolling probation under G.S. 15A-1344(g). I wrote about it in this post if you care to review the basics. The general concept is … Read more

For Whom the (ahem) Period of Probation Tolls

If you’ve been reading the paper, you know the Division of Community Corrections (Probation) has been under a microscope lately. Since the killings of UNC undergraduate Eve Carson and Duke graduate student Abhijit Mahato in 2008, both allegedly committed by probationers, Probation has been taking a hard look at its policies and procedures. One change … Read more