Court Information

North Carolina's court system, called the General Court of Justice, is a unified statewide and state-operated system consisting of three divisions: the Appellate Division, the Superior Court and the District Court Division. The Superior Court and District Court Divisions are commonly referred to as the North Carolina Trial Courts. 

 

For information on the New Hanover County courts, click here.

For information on the Pender County courts, click here.

Both courthouse hours of operation are from 8:00am to 5:00pm, Monday through Friday (please note that the DA's office opens at 8:30 am). The courthouse is closed on Judicial Branch holidays. For addresses and directions, please visit the Contact page. 

Court FAQs

What is the difference between District Court and Superior Court?


District courts are the entry level trial court, and the proper division for civil cases involving less than $25,000, all juvenile matters, and criminal cases involving infractions, misdemeanors, or low-level felonies. If the parties involved in the case do not object, District Court can conduct civil jury trials, or hear civil matters with more than $25,000 in controversy. However, Superior Court is the proper division for civil cases involving more than $25,000, as well as all felony criminal cases. Both courts have jurisdiction over cases regardless of the amount of money in controversy.




What is a screener?


An Assistant District Attorney reviews felony cases to determine if they should be disposed of in District Court or whether they should go to Superior Court




What is the AOC?


The Administrative Office of the Courts was created when the courts were unified in 1963. The primary functions of the AOC include providing support to court officials statewide, administering the budget for the entire judicial branch of government, and providing public information about the court system. You can learn more about legal terms here.




Where can I find North Carolina Law, particularly statutes?


If you have access to the internet, the General Assembly's home page will provide this information for you. If not, try your local law school or the North Carolina Supreme Court Library or law library located in Raleigh. Most universities have a "government" section in the library that has the statutes, as do most libraries. Finally, many local courts have a limited library that may have some information.




How can I conduct a criminal record check?


Public terminals at the offices of most Clerks of Superior Court (in each county) are available and will allow you to conduct these types of searches.




What kind of document do I need to file, or when to file, or where to file, in a particular case?


The Administrative Office of the Courts cannot give legal advice to the public. You should contact an attorney. If you need an attorney referral, you can contact the North Carolina Bar Association Lawyer Referral at 1-800-662-7660. Or, you may contact the local legal services office. To find the local legal services office in your area, contact Legal Services of North Carolina (LSNC) at 1-919-856-2564.




Where can I find information on legal rights for the developmentally disabled?


Information on the legal rights for the developmentally disabled can be found by calling Carolina Legal Assistance at 919-856-2195




I was not advised of my rights. Can I get the case dismissed?


No. Law enforcement officers do not have to advise you of your rights unless there is an incustodial interrogation taking place.




Can I chose the attorney that will be appointed to represent me?


No. If you obtain a court appointed attorney they are assigned on a rotating basis and the fee they are authorized by the court becomes a lien on your property. You can hire the private attorney of your choice.




Can I continue my case to any day I want?


No. Law enforcement officers have specific court days.




Why can't the DA's Office give me legal advice?


The District Attorney's Office prosecutes all criminal actions in the Fifth District. The District Attorney cannot prosecute and defend the same action.




If the witness does not show up will the case be dismissed?


It depends. Some cases can be tried without the victim appearing. Sometimes the case may be continued if the witnesses do not appear. The presiding judge may review the file and sanctions may be imposed.




If I do not show up for court will the case be dismissed?


No. If you are a defendant it is a crime for you to not show up in court. If you are a witness and do not show up a judge may put you in jail.




How long am I under subpoena?


You are under subpoena until discharged by the DA's Office.




I have a question for the District Court ADA, when can I talk to him/her?


The District Court ADAs are rarely in the office, as court runs from 9:00am - 5:00pm every day. While they cannot speak to any defendants about their cases, victims are welcome to email the ADA to schedule a meeting. Please see our Staff Directory for contact info.




How are sentences determined?


North Carolina operates under a policy of structured sentencing. Generally, a person's sentence depends upon the person's prior number and type of convictions. Please view the Sturctured Sentencing guidelines here.

If you need more information, we highly recommend the short graphic novel "In Prison: Serving a Felony Sentence In North Carolina," written by James M. Markham of the UNC School of Government. They are sold online, or you can request a copy from your assigned Victim Witness Legal Assistant.




I have a prior conviction; can I have it expunged from my record?


In some cases, yes. The NC Second Chance Alliance offers an initial guide to understanding the criteria and filing requirements of the various expunctions in North Carolina. Criminal records eligible for expunction in NC are generally limited to the following three categories: 1. A first-time conviction of a nonviolent offense occurring more than 15 years ago 2. A first-time conviction of certain offenses committed before age 18/22 3. A charge that was dismissed or disposed “not guilty” Please visit the Five Arms of the Starfish page to download an 2018 Expunction Summary.





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