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State v. Rutledge

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

August 20, 2019

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
JAMES ALLEN RUTLEDGE

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 8 August 2019.

          Appeal by defendant from judgment entered 14 August 2018 by Judge R. Gregory Horne in Transylvania County No. 18 CRS 72 Superior Court.

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General John Tillery, for the State.

          Jeffrey William Gillette for defendant-appellant.

          Tyson, Judge.

         James Allen Rutledge ("Defendant") appeals from judgment entered after the trial court found him guilty of one count of possession of methamphetamine, a Schedule II controlled substance. We affirm.

         I. Background

         In late 2017, the Brevard Police Department received complaints about suspected drug trafficking occurring at a Transylvania County home. On 29 November 2017, officers executed a search warrant for the home at 54 Camp Harley Farm Drive in Transylvania County. Officers observed Defendant and another male standing outside the home. As part of the process of executing the search warrant, the officers secured the men. The officers conducted a pat-down search of Defendant and found a small purple case containing a crystal-like substance. Testing revealed the substance to be one-tenth of a gram of methamphetamine. Defendant was indicted on 12 February 2018 for one count of possession of methamphetamine, a Schedule II controlled substance.

         Defendant's case was called for trial on 14 August 2018. At the start of trial, Defendant requested to waive his right to a trial by jury and have the judge hear the evidence and adjudicate the charge. Defendant's attorney stated: "Good Afternoon. May it please the Court, at this point in time we do have and do request a waiver of jury trial in this matter." Defendant's attorney also confirmed engaging in prior discussions with the prosecutor about the waiver, and asserted the State had no objections.

         The following colloquy then occurred:

THE COURT: All right. . . . Mr. Rutledge, if you would just stand up where you are, sir. Mr. Rutledge, good afternoon, sir. Sir, you are charged with possession of methamphetamine. Mr. Barton represents you in this matter. Is that correct?
DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: Possession of methamphetamine is a felony. It's a Class I felony. The maximum possible punishment for any Class I felony under North Carolina law is up to 24 months. That would be the maximum. If your prior record level if it is not a VI, the maximum you would face would be correspondingly lower. Have you had an opportunity to talk with Mr. Barton and review the maximum that you actually would face given your prior record, sir?
DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: All right. And I will ask you a couple of questions about that. I'm advised that, by Mr. Barton, that it is your desire to waive a jury trial in this matter and have a bench trial; is that correct?
DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: And you do understand, sir, that you have the right to have 12 jurors, jurors of your peers, selected, that you have the right to participate in their selection pursuant to the rules set forth in our law and that any verdict by the jury would have to be a unanimous verdict, unanimous of the 12? Do you understand that?
DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: You have the right to waive that and instead have a bench trial, which would mean that the judge alone would decide guilt or innocence and the judge alone would determine any aggravating factors that may be present were you to waive your right to a jury trial. Do you understand that?
DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: Have you talked with Mr. Barton about your rights in this regard and the ramifications ...

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