State v. Maready, 362 N.C. 614 (Dec. 12, 2008)

The defendant was convicted of second-degree murder involving impaired driving. No plain error occurred when the trial judge admitted, under Rule 404(b), the defendant’s prior traffic-related convictions that were more than sixteen years old. The court rejected the implication that it previously had adopted a bright line rule that it was plain error to admit traffic-related convictions that occurred more than sixteen years before the date of a second-degree vehicular murder. Of the defendant’s six previous DWI convictions, four occurred in the sixteen years before the events at issue, including one within six months of the event at issue. Those convictions “constitute part of a clear and consistent pattern of criminality highly probative of his mental state.” Although temporal proximity is relevant to the assessments of probative value under 404(b), remoteness generally affects the weight of the evidence, not its admissibility, especially when the prior conduct tends to show state of mind as opposed to common scheme or plan.