State v. Curtis, 371 N.C. 355 (Aug. 17, 2018)

On discretionary review of a unanimous, unpublished decision below, the court reversed, ruling on the “Turner issue” presented in this case and holding that the misdemeanor DWI prosecution was not barred by the two-year statute of limitations in G.S. 15-1. On 1 August 2012, the defendant was cited for DWI. A magistrate’s order was issued on 9 August 2012. On 21 April 2015, the defendant objected to trial on the citation and moved for a statement of charges and to dismiss. The defendant argued that because she was filing a pretrial objection to trial on a citation, the State typically would be required to file a statement of charges. However, she further argued that because G.S. 15-1 establishes a two-year statute of limitations for misdemeanors, the charges must be dismissed. In a Preliminary Indication, the District Court found a statute of limitations bar and dismissed the charges. The State appealed to Superior Court, arguing that the magistrate’s order tolled the statute of limitations. The Superior Court affirmed the District Court’s Preliminary Indication and the State appealed to the Court of Appeals. That court found the procedural and legal issues identical to those in State v. Turner, ___ N.C. App. ___, 793 S.E.2d 287 (2016), adopted the reasoning of that decision, and held that the District Court did not err by granting the motion to dismiss. The State again sought review, arguing that any criminal pleading that establishes jurisdiction in the district court tolls the two-year statute of limitations. The Supreme Court agreed. The Supreme Court found the citation was a constitutionally and statutorily proper criminal pleading that conveyed jurisdiction to the District Court to try the defendant for the charged misdemeanor. The court went on to hold that the citation tolled the statute of limitations. The court found itself unable to “conclude that the General Assembly intended the illogical result that an otherwise valid criminal pleading that vests jurisdiction in the trial court would not also toll the statute of limitations.”