State v. Dingess, 275 N.C. App. 228 (Dec. 15, 2020)

In this Iredell County case, the defendant pled guilty to assault inflicting serious bodily injury for a crime in which the victim suffered a fractured skull and other injuries, leaving him partially paralyzed and suffering from dementia. At sentencing, the defendant admitted to an aggravating factor based on a prior violation of his federal probation and the trial court sentenced the defendant in the aggravated range. On appeal, the defendant argued that the court erred by accepting his admission to the aggravating factor without first confirming that the State either provided him with written notice at least 30 days before trial of its intent to prove the factor, or that the defendant waived his right to notice. Reviewing the trial transcript, the Court of Appeals concluded that the State did not provide notice and that the defendant did not clearly waive his right to notice. The trial court therefore erred. As to the remedy, because the defendant’s plea agreement was based on the possibility of a sentence in the aggravated range, and because that agreement was unfulfillable without the improperly found aggravating factor, the Court of Appeals set aside the entire plea agreement. The case was therefore remanded the case to superior court for disposition on the original charge.