State v. Carter, ___ N.C. App. ___, 2022-NCCOA-262 (Apr. 19, 2022)

In this Forsyth County case, the defendant was convicted of multiple sex crimes in 2020. Based on a prior conviction from 2002, he was deemed to be a recidivist and ordered to enroll in satellite-based monitoring (SBM). Though the SBM statute in effect at the time would have required lifetime SBM, the trial court orally ordered SBM for five years as a condition of the defendant’s post-release supervision (PRS). In its written order, though, the trial court ordered SBM for life based on the defendant’s status as a recidivist. (The trial court did not note that the defendant was also statutorily eligible for lifetime SBM based on his conviction for statutory sexual offense with a child by an adult.) The trial court made findings as to the reasonableness of SBM in light of State v. Grady, 372 N.C. 509 (2019), but ultimately ordered that the defendant be brought back before the court at the conclusion of his lengthy active sentence for a determination of the reasonableness the search under then-existing circumstances and technology.

(1) On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred by ordering lifetime SBM when the State failed to present evidence about reasonableness and the trial court did not conduct a formal hearing on the issue. The Court of Appeals disagreed. As to SBM ordered during the defendant’s term of PRS, the Court concluded that it was reasonable in light of a supervised offender’s diminished expectation of privacy. As to the SBM extending beyond the period of PRS, the Court concluded under the totality of the circumstances that it too was reasonable in light of the 10-year cap on monitoring under 2021 statutory amendments; the fact that the defendant here was not just a recidivist, but was also convicted of statutory sexual offense by an adult with a victim under the age of thirteen; and the fact that SBM was deemed effective without the need for an individualized determination in State v. Hilton, 378 N.C. 692 (2021). The Court thus affirmed the trial court order requiring lifetime SBM.

(2) The defendant also argued that the trial court was without authority to order a second SBM determination hearing upon the defendant’s release from prison. The Court of Appeals agreed that there was no statutory authority for the procedure, but noted that SBM, as a civil matter, could be modified under authority of Rule 60 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court thus vacated the trial court’s order for a second SBM hearing upon the defendant’s release.