in the Court of Appeals 11 April 2019.
by the State from order entered 14 February 2017 by Judge
Gregory R. Hayes in Catawba County Superior Court No. 13 CRS
Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Special Deputy Attorney
General Christopher W. Brooks, for the State-appellant.
E. Cody, III for defendant-appellee.
Harvey Lee Stevens, Jr., was charged by citation for two
counts of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle. The State
subsequently filed a misdemeanor statement of charges
charging Defendant with the same two offenses. While this
action was pending in District Court, the grand jury made a
presentment and subsequently returned an indictment for two
counts of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle. Defendant moved
to dismiss the charges in Superior Court, arguing the
presentment and indictment were returned more than two years
after the commission of the offense in violation of the
statute of limitations for misdemeanors in N.C. G.S. §
15-1. The trial court allowed Defendant's motion.
citation and misdemeanor statement of charges, as valid
criminal pleadings, toll the two-year statute of limitations
for misdemeanors set out in N.C. G.S. § 15-1. The
statute of limitations remains tolled by the criminal
pleadings while that action is pending. When a presentment
and indictment are returned in Superior Court during the
tolling period, N.C. G.S. § 15-1 does not bar
prosecution based upon the indictment. We reverse the trial
court's order allowing Defendant's motion to dismiss.
December 2013, Defendant was charged by Citation and
Magistrate's Order with two counts of
misdemeanor death by motor vehicle arising out of an accident
on Interstate 40 in Catawba County. Defendant's case was
pending in Catawba County District Court from this time until
21 December 2015, when a Misdemeanor Statement of
Charges was filed charging Defendant with two counts of
misdemeanor death by motor vehicle. The matter was continued
in District Court on 3 March 2016 to 23 June 2016.
Defendant's charges were heard in the District Court on
23 June 2016, the grand jury in Catawba County made a
Presentment for the two counts of misdemeanor death
by motor vehicle on 7 March 2016 and subsequently returned an
Indictment for the same charges on 21 March 2016.
Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss in Catawba
County Superior Court, arguing "the statute of
limitations ha[d] run" on the two offenses. The trial
court allowed Defendant's motion, concluding the
Defendant was charged with the two offenses by indictment
"after the two[-]year statute of limitations had
run" and that the "statute of limitations bars
further prosecution on the Defendant." The State timely
State argues the trial court erred in concluding the 21 March
2016 indictment charging Defendant with two counts of
misdemeanor death by motor vehicle was returned after the
two-year statute of limitations. More specifically, it argues
the statute of limitations from the date of offense was
tolled by the misdemeanor statement of charges at the time
the indictment was issued. Accordingly, it asserts it was not
barred from issuing the indictment. We agree.
State does not challenge any findings of fact in the trial
court's order, so those findings of fact are binding on
appeal. State v. Biber, 365 N.C. 162, 167-68, 712
S.E.2d 874, 878 (2011). "Conclusions of law drawn by the
trial court from its findings of fact are reviewable de
novo on appeal." State v. Williams, 362
N.C. 628, 632, 669 S.E.2d 290, 294 (2008) (citation and
internal quotation marks omitted). "Under a de
novo review, the court considers the matter anew and
freely substitutes its own judgment for that of the lower
tribunal." Id. at 632-33, 669 S.E.2d at 294.
Whether a defendant is entitled to dismissal of the charges
against him or her is a conclusion of law. Id. at
632, 669 S.E.2d at 294.
G.S. § 15-1 sets forth the statute of limitations for
misdemeanors. The version of the statute in effect from 1943
to 2017, the relevant time period for the events occurring
herein, stated that "all misdemeanors except malicious
misdemeanors, shall be presented or found by the grand jury
within two years after the commission of the same, and not
afterwards[.]" N.C. G.S. § 15-1 (2015). In State
v. Curtis, 371 N.C. 355, 817 S.E.2d 187 (2018), our
Supreme Court addressed the types of criminal pleadings
required to toll the two-year statute of limitations in this
version of the statute. In Curtis, the defendant was
issued a citation for driving while impaired, and a
magistrate's order was issued on that charge (among
others). Id. at 356, 817 S.E.2d at 187-88. Over two
years later, the defendant objected to trial on citation and
moved to dismiss the charges. Id. at 356, 817 S.E.2d
at 188. "In her motion [the] defendant argued that,
because she was filing a pretrial objection . . . to trial on
citation, the ...