State v. Jonas, 433PA21, ___ N.C. ___ (May. 23, 2024)

In this Cabarrus County case, the Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeals decision that defendant was not required to give notice of his intent to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress prior to entering an open guilty plea. 

Defendant was charged with possession of a controlled substance and filed a motion to suppress, arguing the officer who stopped and searched him lacked reasonable suspicion. The trial court denied defendant’s motion, and defendant subsequently pleaded guilty. Notably, defendant confirmed to the trial court that he was not pleading guilty as part of a plea arrangement. After sentencing, defense counsel gave notice of appeal on the record. The Court of Appeals panel unanimously held that defendant was not required to give notice of intent to appeal prior to entering his plea. 

Taking up the State’s discretionary petition, the Supreme Court first noted that under State v. Reynolds, 298 N.C. 380 (1979), defendant would normally be required to give notice of his intent to appeal to the prosecutor and court “to ensure fundamental fairness in the plea negotiation process.” Slip Op. at 1. The Court noted that here, defendant did not receive any benefit from the State, and the issue of fairness was not in play. Concluding it would not advance the interests of justice and fairness to extend the Reynolds rule to open guilty pleas, the Court affirmed the Court of Appeals decision. 

Chief Justice Newby, joined by Justice Berger, dissented, and would have held that State v. Tew, 326 N.C. 732 (1990), controlled and required application of the Reynolds rule to open pleas. Slip Op. at 14.