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North Carolina's Determinate Sentencing Legislation

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 68 Issue: 4-5 Dated: (October/November 1984) Pages: 140-152
Date Published
13 pages
The North Carolina General Assembly enacted the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) in 1979, intended to reduce unjustified variation in sentences for felonies and to make such sentences more predictable, although not necessarily more severe.
This review identifies the weaknesses of the FSA; considers its history and impact; and discusses trial court dispositions, sentencing procedure, other sentencing options, sentence severity and variation, and effects on prison populations. Length of active sentence for felonies varied less after the FSA. The fact that the FSA presumptive prison term was generally the median length of active sentence is strong evidence that the reduced variation was due to the FSA. Further evidence of adherence to the FSA's presumptive prison terms is the fact that judges tended to impose these terms even though they were generally well below the pre-FSA median and mean prison terms. Much variation remained in sentence lengths, but the tendency was toward greater consistency. While judges varied less in the length of active sentence for felonies, they did not become more sensitive to aggravating factors emphasized by the FSA, such as prior convictions, degree of physical injury, and amount of property loss. There were indications that the disadvantages of black defendants in sentencing declined or disappeared after the FSA. The FSA left intact much prosecutorial and judicial discretion. This provided wide opportunity to evade the policies of the legislation, yet little evasion seemed to occur. One table, 1 figure, and 23 footnotes are provided.

Date Published: January 1, 1984