State v. Jackson, COA22-984, ___ N.C. App. ___ (Oct. 17, 2023)

In this Perquimans County case, defendant appealed the trial court’s finding that he violated the terms of his probation, arguing the trial court extended his probation after the probationary term had expired without a finding of good cause. The Court of Appeals agreed, vacating the order and remanding to the trial court to determine if good cause exists.  

Defendant, a town council member, was placed on probation for striking another council member in October 2018. After entering an Alford plea to assault of a government official, defendant was sentenced in December 2019 to 60 days of imprisonment, suspended for 24 months supervised probation with 15 days of active term, and a curfew from 7pm to 6am. Defendant’s probation officer filed violation reports alleging that defendant violated the curfew and left the county without prior approval. The matter was initially set for an August 2020 hearing, but after continuances, the matter did not reach a hearing until February of 2022. By that time, defendant’s probationary term had expired, ending in December 2021. After the February 2022 hearing, the trial court entered an order extending defendant’s probation for another 12 months and ordering a 45-day active term as a condition of special probation. Defendant appealed.

The Court of Appeals looked first to G.S. 15A-1344(f), which allows a trial court to extend probation after the expiration of the term in certain circumstances. Relevant for this case, a trial court must find that the defendant violated a condition of probation, and then make a finding under (f)(3) that “for good cause shown and stated the probation should be extended.” Slip Op. at 4. The court explained that “A finding of good cause ‘cannot simply be inferred from the record.’” Id., quoting State v. Morgan, 372 N.C. 609, 617 (2019). Because the hearing here occurred after defendant’s probation term expired, and the record contained no finding of good cause to satisfy G.S. 15A-1344(f)(3), the court remanded for further determination by the trial court. 

The court also vacated the 45-day active term imposed after the expiration of defendant’s probation, finding error by the trial court for two reasons. First, under the calculation required by G.S. 15A-1351(a), “the maximum period of confinement that could have been imposed as a condition of special probation was 15 days,” which defendant had served at the beginning of his sentence. Id. at 6. Second, because the statute sets an outer deadline of “the end of the probationary term or two years after the date of conviction, whichever comes first,” defendant’s additional 45-day active term was outside the acceptable period. Id. at 7.