State v. Ellis, ___ N.C. App. ___, 832 S.E.2d 750 (Aug. 20, 2019)

rev’d on other grounds, ___ N.C. ___, ___ S.E.2d ___ (May. 1, 2020)

The court determined that the trial court erred in calculating the defendant’s prior record level (PRL) based on the defendant’s stipulation that a prior conviction for expired operators’ license was a Class 2 misdemeanor. At the time of the instant offense, driving with an expired license had been reclassified as an infraction.  G.S. 15A-1340.21(b) provides that an offense may be included in determining a defendant’s PRL only “if it is either a felony or misdemeanor at the time the offense for which the offender is being sentenced is committed.”  DistinguishingState v. Arrington, ___ N.C. ___, 819 S.E.2d 329 (2018), which held that a defendant’s stipulation regarding the classification of a prior felony conviction was binding as a factual determination where two possible classifications existed for the offense at issue, the court explained that because “no misdemeanor category crime for possession of an expired operators’ license existed” at the relevant time, as a matter of law the defendant could not stipulate as he did.