State v. Watson, ___ N.C. App. ___, 812 S.E.2d 392 (Mar. 6, 2018)

A trial court is required to enter a commitment order at the time of judgment and sentencing. While awaiting sentencing on federal charges, on 18 May 2009 the defendant pleaded guilty to state charges. The trial court held a sentencing hearing that day and, pursuant to the plea, sentenced the defendant to prison. On 19 May 2009, the trial court entered its Judgment, ordering the defendant to be imprisoned in the custody of “N.C. DOC.” The trial court left unchecked a box on the Judgment form indicating that the sentence was to be consecutive to any other imposed sentences. It also left unchecked a box ordering the sheriff or other officer to cause the defendant to be delivered to the custody of the agency named in the judgment to serve the sentence imposed. On 12 November 2009, judgment was entered against the defendant in his federal case, sentencing him to concurrent sentences in the custody of the United States Bureau of Prisons, and the defendant began service of his federal sentence. On 30 March 2016 the North Carolina Department of Public Safety lodged a detainer in the federal system. After learning of the detainer, on 20 July 2016 the defendant filed an MAR requesting that he be adjudged to have served all of his North Carolina time. The trial court denied the MAR and the defendant appealed. The court held that the trial court erred by denying the defendant’s request for entry of a commitment order nunc pro tunc consistent with the judgment. Under G.S. 15A-1353, when a sentence includes a term of imprisonment, the court must include an order of commitment. Unless otherwise specified in the order of commitment, the date of the order is the date service of the sentence is to begin. Here, the trial court entered its Judgment imposing a term of imprisonment but failed to enter an order of commitment for N.C. DOC to take custody of the defendant for service of that term. Thus, the defendant is entitled to entry of a commitment order nunc pro tunc 19 May 2009. The court went on to reject the defendant’s argument that his sentence began on that date. Here, the very terms of the Judgment require the defendant to spend at least 80 months in the custody of N.C. DOC, and such a term necessarily cannot begin to run until he actually is remitted into the agency’s custody. Because the defendant was never remitted into the custody of N.C. DOC, and his sentence cannot begin to run consistent with the Judgment until he is so remitted, the defendant’s sentence for the state charges had not begun to run at the time of the MAR hearing. The court remanded for entry of an order of commitment specifying that the defendant’s sentence is to begin when he is released from federal custody.


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