State v. Dawkins, ___ N.C. App. ___, 827 S.E.2d 551 (May. 21, 2019)

In this felon in possession of a firearm case, the defendant was not deprived of effective assistance of counsel when the trial court rejected defense counsel’s attempt to stipulate to the fact that the defendant was a convicted felon where the defendant disagreed with the stipulation. Before trial, the State and defense counsel agreed to stipulate that the defendant had previously been convicted of a felony. After conferring with the defendant, defense counsel told the trial court that the defendant did not want to sign the stipulation. Defense counsel stated that he believed the stipulation was in the defendant’s best interest. The trial court rejected the proposed stipulation. The court noted that the defendant’s argument was premised on a notion rejected by the state high court: that where the defendant and his lawyer reach an impasse regarding a tactical decision, defense counsel’s decision trumps the defendant’s decision. This notion is inconsistent with North Carolina law regarding the absolute impasse rule. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the absolute impasse rule did not apply because he was not fully informed regarding his stipulation and that an absolute impasse had not been established.