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Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about the District Attorney’s Office
+What is the jurisdiction of the DA?

The District Attorney for North Carolina’s 26th Prosecutorial District prosecutes all non-federal criminal matters that occur within Mecklenburg County. For more information about other districts in North Carolina, visit the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys website. The DA’s Office in Mecklenburg County is the largest in North Carolina and prosecutes more cases than any other jurisdiction in the state.

+How many District Attorneys are there?

There is one elected District Attorney (DA) for each prosecutorial district in North Carolina. The other prosecutors in each district are called Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs), and they are hired by the DA. The number of ADAs varies by district. In Mecklenburg County, there are more than 80 ADAs.

+How many cases does your office handle?

On average, the Mecklenburg County DA’s Office prosecutes more than 9,000 felonies and more than 200,000 misdemeanor and traffic cases every year.

+Why do prosecutors make plea agreements?

Across the country, the majority of criminal cases are resolved through a plea agreement. When considering whether to offer a plea agreement, prosecutors weigh a number of factors, including the seriousness of the alleged offense, the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence, the likelihood of success at trial, the victim’s wishes, public safety, punishment, rehabilitation, deterrence and N.C. sentencing laws. A prosecutor’s directive, pursuant to the N.C. Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys, is to seek justice, and this is often achieved by a guilty plea. Additionally, there are not enough judges or other court staff to hold a jury trial for the thousands of cases prosecuted each year in Mecklenburg County. Consider this: If plea agreements were no longer offered beginning today and absolutely no new arrests were made by police from this day forward, it would take decades for every pending case to be tried before a jury.

+If the police arrest someone, why does the DA’s Office not always prosecute the case?

Police must have “probable cause” to arrest someone. However, to convict someone of a crime, prosecutors must prove the defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” These are very different standards of proof. Although the DA’s Office works with police to protect the community, police and prosecutors play different roles in the criminal justice system. Police investigate a case and provide the information and evidence to the DA’s Office. Then, prosecutors must determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. Probable cause, a relatively low standard of proof, means that there is reasonable suspicion, which is supported by circumstances and evidence, that a defendant probably committed a crime. To explain the concept of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” here is part of the instruction a judge reads to a jury before the jury deliberates: “A reasonable doubt is a doubt based on reason and common sense, arising out of some or all of the evidence that has been presented, or lack or insufficiency of the evidence, as the case may be. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof that fully satisfies or entirely convinces you of the defendant's guilt." For a defendant to be convicted at trial, all 12 jurors must agree that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

+Why does the DA’s Office dismiss charges?

In each case, prosecutors weigh the circumstances and evidence available to determine how to proceed to obtain a just result. In some cases, a dismissal is justice. There are many reasons why prosecutors may decide or be compelled to dismiss a charge. Some of those reasons include:

  • A lack of sufficient evidence
  • Uncooperative victims or witnesses
  • New evidence, such as crime lab results or a new witness, that calls the defendant’s guilt into question
  • Inconsistencies in statements by victims or witnesses
  • A victim or witness who cannot be located or is no longer credible at the time of trial
  • A change in the law
Some cases may be “dismissed with leave.” For example, a prosecutor may dismiss a case with leave when a defendant fails to appear for court and an order for arrest is issued. If the defendant is located and the order for arrest is served on the defendant, prosecutors can then reinstate the charges against the defendant.


Questions from victims
+How should I report a crime?

All crimes should be reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency. For links to many local law enforcement agencies and local offices of federal agencies, please visit our helpful links.

+ I would like a potential crime investigated. Whom should I contact?

In North Carolina, all criminal investigations are conducted by a law enforcement agency. The DA’s Office does not conduct investigations. For a listing of law enforcement agencies that may be responsible for investigating a crime that occurred in Mecklenburg County, please consult our helpful links.

+What if I want to dismiss or "drop" the charges?

A victim cannot drop or dismiss charges, and the DA's Office does not dismiss charges at the request of a victim or witness. The office will make all decisions regarding whether to proceed with the prosecution of the defendant. You may contact the DA’s Office or come to court as subpoenaed to discuss the matter with the prosecutor.

+Is the Assistant District Attorney (ADA) my attorney? Do I need a lawyer?

The ADA assigned to your case represents the State of North Carolina for criminal matters. The ADA does not represent any individual or business. Because he or she works in this capacity, the ADA is not your attorney, however the ADA works to seek justice in every case. The DA’s Office cannot advise you as to whether you need a lawyer.

+If I am subpoenaed, do I have to go to court?

Yes. If you don’t come to court when subpoenaed, the judge has the authority to issue an order for your arrest and an order for you to show cause as to why you did not appear as directed by the court through the subpoena.

+How can I find a defendant's next court date and the courtroom?

Click here to search for a defendant’s court date. You may also call the DA’s Office at 704-686-0700. If you plan to come to court for a proceeding for which you were not subpoenaed, the office highly recommends first confirming that court date with the DA’s Office.

+How do I get a copy of a police report?

You should contact the law enforcement agency that created the report to obtain a copy. Please see our helpful links. for contact information.

+Where is the courthouse?

The Mecklenburg County Courthouse is located at 832 E. 4th Street in Charlotte. Please see our map and directions for more information.

+What is a bond hearing, and when are they held?

Pursuant to N.C. law, anyone charged with a crime is permitted to have conditions of pre-trial release set by a magistrate or judge. The only exception is for a capital offense (first-degree murder). In the case of first-degree murder, only a judge may set conditions of pre-trial release, and the judge is not required to do so. At a bond hearing, conditions of pre-trial release are reviewed by the presiding judicial official. Pre-trial conditions are usually set upon arrest by a magistrate but can later be reviewed in court by a District or Superior Court judge. The purposes of pre-trial release conditions are to ensure the defendant’s future appearance at court proceedings related to the case and to prevent immediate danger to the community. Punishment is not a topic of consideration when determining the appropriate pre-trial release conditions because the accused has not yet been convicted of the crime. Judicial officials will often focus their consideration on these issues when determining the appropriate pre-trial release conditions: the nature and circumstances of the offense charged; the weight of the evidence against the defendant; the defendant’s family ties; employment; financial resources; character and mental condition; how long the defendant has resided in the local community; the defendant’s prior convictions; and the defendant’s history of flight to avoid prosecution or failure to appear at court proceedings.

+How can I find out when a defendant is released from jail?

There are two resources you may wish to review. You can access the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's online inmate inquiry search to determine whether a defendant is still in custody at the Mecklenburg County Jail. You may also visit the North Carolina Department of Public Safety’s website to learn more about the Statewide Automated Victim Assistance and Notification (SAVAN) program. The SAVAN system is a service through which victims of crime can use the telephone or Internet to search for information regarding the custody status of an offender and to register to receive telephone and email notification when the offender’s custody status changes. The toll-free number for the North Carolina SAVAN system is 1-877-627-2826.
Note: These websites and services are not associated with the DA's Office, however, you may contact the DA’s Office at 704-686-0700 if you have questions or concerns about a defendant’s release from jail.

+Does the DA’s Office provide therapy services?

The DA’s Office refers victims to local organizations that can provide therapy or help victims locate available resources. For questions regarding therapy for children, contact Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center at 704-335-2760. Sexual assault and domestic violence victims may contact Safe Alliance at 704-332-9034 for information about support groups and other services. Safe Alliance’s Victims Assistance program also provides safety planning, crisis counseling, assistance with protective orders and more. For information about this program, call 704-336-4126. Mecklenburg County Domestic Violence, Substance Use & Violence Prevention Services also assists adults and children. Call 704-336-3210 for more information.

+Can I sue the defendant?

The District Attorney’s Office is not involved in civil proceedings. The DA’s Office cannot advise you as to whether you should pursue a civil lawsuit against the defendant or anyone else.

+The defendant's lawyer, investigator or other staff member wants to talk to me. Do I have to?

That is solely your decision. If you decide you want to talk to the defense, be sure to tell the truth.

+If I’m a victim or witness, and the defendant or someone else threatens me or tries to intimidate me, what should I do?

First, call the police. Then, contact the Assistant District Attorney assigned to your case.

+What if I move or change my telephone number?

If you move or change your phone number, it is very important that you immediately let the DA's Office know of this change. Call a legal assistant at our office at 704-686-0700.


Requests for documents
+How do I get a copy of a police report?

You should contact the police agency that created the report to obtain a copy.

+Where can I get a criminal background check completed?

You must visit the Clerk of Court in the Mecklenburg County Courthouse. A fee is charged for this service. You may contact the Clerk’s Office for details by calling 704-686-0400.


Traffic citation questions
+What effect will a traffic ticket have on my driver's license privileges or insurance points?

The DA’s Office is not allowed to provide legal advice. You should contact the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or your insurance company to learn more about the impact of a traffic ticket. You may also hire an attorney to assist you with your case.

+Where can I get information about traffic school?

Visit www.safetync.org or call 704-644-4200.

+Where can I pay for my traffic citation?

To pay for your citation, you may visit the cashier department located on the first floor of the Mecklenburg County Courthouse. Please contact the cashier department at 704-686-0450 for information regarding accepted forms of payment. If you don’t want to contest the citation, and you’d like to pay your fine and related costs online, visit www.payNCticket.org.

+What forms of payment are accepted when paying for a traffic ticket at the courthouse?

Contact the Clerk of Court for payment details. The cashier is located on the first floor of the Mecklenburg County Courthouse and can be reached by telephone at 704-686-0450.

+Can someone else appear for me on my court date?

For some minor offenses, an attorney can appear in your place. The DA's Office cannot advise you as to whether this applies in your case. Please consult an attorney.

+Where is the courthouse?

The Mecklenburg County Courthouse is located at 832 E. 4th Street in Charlotte. Please see our map and directions for more information

+Can I resolve my traffic ticket without coming to court?

You are expected to appear in court on your scheduled court date, however, the DA’s Office offers several options to resolve some traffic citations before your court date. See our Traffic Citations information for details.

+What should I do if I missed my court date for a traffic citation?

If you do not have an attorney, speak with an Assistant District Attorney (ADA) who staffs a station at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and 2-4 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The station is located in the Clerk’s Office on the second floor of the courthouse.


Questions about court proceedings, terminology and other topics
+To whom should I direct my questions about jury duty?

Please direct all jury duty questions to the jury coordinator at the Trial Court Administrator’s Office by calling 704-686-0195. Click here for more information about jury duty in Mecklenburg County.

+If I am subpoenaed, do I have to go to court?

Yes. A judge has the authority to issue an order for your arrest and an order for you to show cause as to why you did not appear as directed by the court through the subpoena.

+Can someone else appear for me on my court date?

For some minor offenses, an attorney can appear in your place. The DA's Office cannot advise you as to whether this applies in your case. Please consult your attorney.

+What is District Court? What is Superior Court?

For a look at the structure of the N.C. court system, click here.

+What is a bond hearing, and when are they held?

Pursuant to N.C. law, anyone charged with a crime is permitted to have conditions of pre-trial release set by a magistrate or judge. The only exception is for a capital offense (first-degree murder). In the case of first-degree murder, only a judge may set conditions of pre-trial release, and the judge is not required to do so. At a bond hearing, conditions of pre-trial release are reviewed by the presiding judicial official. Pre-trial conditions are usually set upon arrest by a magistrate but can later be reviewed in court by a District or Superior Court judge. The purposes of pre-trial release conditions are to ensure the defendant’s future appearance at court proceedings related to the case and to prevent immediate danger to the community. Judicial officials are not determining appropriate punishment during this hearing because the accused has not yet been convicted of the crime. Judicial officials will often focus their consideration on these issues when determining the appropriate pre-trial release conditions: the nature and circumstances of the offense charged; the weight of the evidence against the defendant; the defendant’s family ties; employment; financial resources; character and mental condition; how long the defendant has resided in the local community; the defendant’s prior convictions; and the defendant’s history of flight to avoid prosecution or failure to appear at court proceedings.

+I often hear the terms "habitual offender," "repeat offender" and "habitual felon." What do these terms mean?

The only one of these terms that has legal significance is "habitual felon." N.C. law allows a prosecutor to seek a habitual felon indictment against a defendant when the defendant has three prior felony convictions and he/she commits a new, fourth felony. A conviction as a habitual felon substantially increases a defendant’s sentence. However, there are many nuances to this law. To use convictions toward a defendant’s habitual felon status, there can be no overlap between the commission of the crimes and convictions for each offense. That is, the defendant must commit felony #1 and then be convicted of that offense. (If a defendant commits a new crime before being convicted of this offense, a conviction for that new crime cannot count toward his habitual felon status.) After being convicted, he must commit felony #2. After being convicted of felony #2, he must commit felony #3. After being convicted of felony #3, he must then commit felony #4 to qualify. State law also provides that only one felony committed before a defendant’s 18th birthday may be counted toward his/her habitual felon status. Because of these legal requirements, it is possible for a defendant with a significant history of felony convictions to not qualify for prosecution as a habitual felon. The Mecklenburg County DA’s Office has a team of Assistant District Attorneys who exclusively target offenders who qualify for prosecution as habitual felons.

+What is a public defender? What is a court-appointed attorney?

A public defender is a lawyer who works for the Public Defender's Office (PD's Office). Attorneys in the PD's Office represent people charged with crimes who cannot afford to hire a private attorney. (See the Office of Indigent Defense Services’ website for more information.) In order to receive the services of an appointed attorney, the court must order the public defender to represent you. If the court appoints a public defender to represent you, your case may ultimately be assigned to a private court-appointed attorney who does not work in the PD's Office but will do the same work as the public defender. These court-appointed attorneys are necessary because the PD's Office is not able to handle every case. For example, there may not be enough attorneys employed at the PD's Office to handle every case, or there may be a conflict of interest, such as when there are multiple defendants charged in a particular case.

+I want to file a complaint about my defense attorney. Should I contact you?

No. Any complaints about defense attorneys should be directed to the North Carolina State Bar.

+I have a defense attorney, but I want to talk to the prosecutor myself. What should I do?

The DA’s Office cannot communicate with a defendant represented by counsel. Please discuss the matter with your attorney.

+How do I get my record expunged?

The DA's Office cannot give you legal advice. You may wish to consider consulting with an attorney or visiting the 26th Judicial District’s SelfServe Center in the Mecklenburg County Courthouse.

+Where is the probation department located?

You should contact your probation officer for the precise location of his/her office. You may call the probation department at 704-563-4125 or visit 800 E. 4th Street in Charlotte for more information.

+Are judges appointed or elected?

Judges are elected in North Carolina with a few exceptions. Superior Court judges travel to multiple judicial districts in North Carolina to hold court. District Court judges preside only in the judicial district in which they were elected. The state legislature determines how many judicial positions will be created and funded for each district. In some instances, judges are appointed by the governor. Such appointments are likely to fill a recent vacancy (until the next election can be held) or to fill a Special Superior Court Judge position that was created by the state legislature.

+How many courtrooms in the Mecklenburg County Courthouse are designated for criminal cases? What happens in each courtroom?

There are approximately 16 courtrooms used for criminal cases. State holidays and judges’ schedules often dictate which days court is not in session. The following courtrooms generally operate Monday-Friday during 47 weeks of the year:
District Court courtrooms

  • 1130: Misdemeanor/traffic administrative court
  • 1150: Probable cause and bond hearings for felonies are held in the morning. In the afternoon, first appearances are held for misdemeanors and felonies.
  • 4130: Misdemeanor domestic violence court (trials and pleas)
  • 4150, 4170 and 4310: Misdemeanor trials and pleas
  • 4330: District Court proceedings are held in this courtroom a few days each week.
Superior Court courtrooms
  • 5370 and 5110: Felony jury trials
  • 5130/5150: Felony jury trials (only during weeks that the state courts system grants the DA’s request to assign an extra judge to preside in either of these courtrooms)
  • 5170: Felony trials, misdemeanor appeals trials, felony probation violation hearings, etc. (varies weekly)
  • 5350: Felony administrative court (pleas, bond hearings, and other miscellaneous matters)
Juvenile Court courtrooms
  • 8330, 8350 and 8390: Juvenile trials and pleas
  • 8370: Juvenile detention hearings

 
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