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State v. Rich

July 07, 1998

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
JAMES D. RICH



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Martin, John C., Judge.

Appeal by defendant from judgments entered 19 February 1997 by judge W. Russell Duke, Jr., in Craven County Superior Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 2 April 1998.

Defendant was charged in a single bill of indictment with first degree burglary and common law robbery. A jury found him guilty of both offenses. The trial court determined that defendant had a prior record point total of twenty-four, giving him a prior record level of VI. The trial court entered judgments imposing a sentence of a minimum of 183 months and a maximum of 229 months for first degree burglary, and a consecutive sentence of a minimum of 36 months and a maximum of 44 months for common law robbery. Defendant appeals.

Because the assignments of error brought forward in defendant's brief, with one exception, are directed to the sentencing proceeding, we need not recite the evidence in detail. We have reviewed the transcript carefully and conclude the State offered sufficient evidence to show that on 1 May 1996, at approximately 11:30 p.m., defendant broke and entered the residential apartment of Margaret Stevens in New Bern while Ms. Stevens was sleeping there. Defendant demanded money of Ms. Stevens, took her wallet containing currency and credit cards, and fled. He was apprehended by the police shortly thereafter; the victim's wallet was found in the vicinity of his arrest. In the only assignment of error not related to his sentence, defendant contends the trial court erred by instructing the jury that it could consider the doctrine of possession of recently stolen property in deciding defendant's guilt of first degree burglary as well as common law robbery. Defendant argues the doctrine should not have been applied to the burglary charge. The issue has been decided adversely to defendant by our Supreme Court. State v. Barnes, 345 N.C. 184, 481 S.E.2d 44 (1997), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 140 L.E.2d 473 (1998); State v. Joyner, 301 N.C. 18, 269 S.E.2d 125 (1980).

With respect to the sentencing proceeding, defendant first argues the court erred by accepting the State's offer of "an unverified computerized printout not under seal" to prove defendant's prior criminal convictions. The printout offered by the State contained the heading "DCI-Record" (Division of Criminal Information), contained a detailed description of defendant including his fingerprint identifier number and FBI number, and showed that defendant had been convicted of multiple offenses in North Carolina, New Jersey, and New York.

Defendant cites no authority in support of his argument that the printout was not an acceptable method of proof of prior convictions pursuant to G.S. § 15A-1340.14(f). The statute provides: Proof of Prior Convictions. -- A prior conviction shall be proved by any of the following methods:

(1) Stipulation of the parties.

(2) An original or copy of the court record of the prior conviction.

(3) A copy of records maintained by the Division of Criminal Information, the Division of Motor Vehicles, or of the Administrative Office of the Courts.

(4) Any other method found by the court to be reliable.

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1340.14(f) (1997).

As indicated by its heading, the computerized printout was a detailed record of defendant's criminal history as maintained by the Division of Criminal Information. A "copy", includes "a paper writing containing a reproduction of a record maintained electronically on a computer or other data processing equipment . . . ." N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1340.14(f). The computerized record contained sufficient identifying information with respect to defendant to give it the indicia of reliability. Thus, we believe use of the printout to prove defendant's prior convictions was proper under G.S. § 15A-1340.14(f)(3) and, in addition, under G.S. § 15A-1340.14(f)(4) (any other method found by the court to be reliable).

Defendant also argues the trial court erred in classifying his prior convictions from other jurisdictions. He argues the State's evidence, consisting of photocopies of New Jersey and New York statutes, was insufficient to meet its burden of showing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that offenses committed by defendant in New Jersey and New York were substantially similar to offenses classified as felonies in North Carolina. We disagree.

G.S. § 15A-1340.14(e) (1997) provides: Except as otherwise provided in this subsection, a conviction occurring in a jurisdiction other than North Carolina is classified as a Class I felony if the jurisdiction in which the offense occurred classifies the offense as a felony, or is classified as a Class 3 misdemeanor if the jurisdiction in which the offense occurred classifies the offense as a misdemeanor. If the offender proves by the preponderance of the evidence that an offense classified as a felony in the other jurisdiction is substantially similar to an offense that is a misdemeanor in North Carolina, the conviction is treated as that class of misdemeanor for assigning prior record level points. If the State proves by the preponderance of the evidence that an offense classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony in the other jurisdiction is substantially similar to an offense in North Carolina that is classified as a Class I felony or higher, the conviction is treated as that class of felony for assigning prior record level points. If the State proves by the preponderance of the evidence that an offense classified as a misdemeanor in the other jurisdiction is substantially similar to an offense classified as a Class A1 or Class 1 misdemeanor in North Carolina, the conviction is treated as a Class A1 or Class 1 misdemeanor for assigning prior record level points.

G.S. ยง 8-3 provides that a printed copy of a statute of another state is admissible as evidence of the statute law of such state. We hold that the copies of the New Jersey and New York statutes, and comparison of their provisions to the criminal laws of North Carolina, were sufficient to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the crimes of which defendant was convicted in those states were ...


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