State v. Vorndran, ___ N.C. App. ___, ___ S.E.2d ___ (Aug. 4, 2020)

On March 21, 2018, the defendant pled guilty in Wake County Superior Court to felony secret peeping in violation of G.S. 14-202(e). Pursuant to a plea agreement, the defendant was placed on four years of supervised probation. Among other conditions, the defendant was not permitted to be unsupervised around children under the age of 14. The trial judge conducted a separate hearing the same day on whether the defendant would be required to register as a sex offender pursuant to G.S. 14-202(l). The trial court opted, in light of the defendant’s age, to give him a chance to show that he was not a danger to the community. The court announced that there would be a hearing in 12 months to see whether the defendant was in compliance with probation. The parties agreed to a subsequent hearing, which they agreed could be accelerated for noncompliance. 

On December 1, 2018, the defendant was arrested in New Hanover County for felony secret peeping. Three days later, the State notified the defendant that based on his recent arrest he should be required to register for his Wake County conviction and that his registration hearing was being accelerated. On December 20, 2018, the defendant appeared in Wake County Superior Court before a superior court judge who was not the sentencing judge in the original Wake County case. The judge ordered the defendant to register as a sex offender for 30 years. 

(1) The defendant argued on appeal that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the December 20 hearing because the presiding judge was not the “sentencing court” as contemplated by G.S. 14-202(l). 

The court of appeals rejected the defendant’s argument, noting that the defendant agreed to a subsequent hearing, which he agreed could be accelerated, and agreed that he would not be unsupervised around any children under the age of 14. Thus, when he was arrested for felony secret peeping involving a nine-year-old child, he was in violation of the terms of his probation, and his hearing could be accelerated pursuant to the plea agreement. In addition, the State notified the defendant that it was accelerating his registration hearing, and the issues before the court in that hearing were to determine in the first instance whether the defendant was a danger to the community and whether his registration would further the purpose of the registration scheme. On these facts, the appellate court determined that Wake County Superior Court retained jurisdiction over the defendant’s second hearing and affirmed its order.

(2) The trial court erroneously checked box 1(b) on form AOC-CR-615 (the sex offender registration determination form), indicating the defendant was convicted of a sexually violent offense rather than box 1(d), to indicate that the defendant was convicted of felony secret peeping. The court of appeals remanded the matter to the trial court for the limited purpose of correcting that error.