Skip to content

North Carolina State and Federal Courts

State Courts

Since 1971, North Carolina has had a unified court system, with each of its 100 counties having its own courthouse. Unlike some states, which have town, borough, or city courts, North Carolina courts are unified, county-wide, and follow the same structure across the entire state of North Carolina. While some of the less populated counties - for instance Orange and Chatham - are grouped into single Judicial Districts, counties such as Wake and Durham are each individual Judicial Districts.

Trial courts are divided into two divisions, Superior Court and District Court (which includes Traffic Court). District Court hears misdemeanor and infraction (traffic) cases. District Court typically operates more informally, and no record is kept by a stenographer. Any losing defendant may appeal his conviction to Superior Court for an entirely fresh hearing.

Felony cases are ultimately tried in Superior Court, where the defendant has a right to a jury trial to determine his guilt or innocence. If convicted, the defendant has the right to appeal to the Court of Appeals, a 15 member appellate court that sits in panels of three judges. The defendant must allege errors in his trial violating statute or constitutional law and that render the outcome. Most convictions end there.

Federal Courts

The Federal Government also prosecutes crimes through either the Department of Justice, or more typically through United States Attorneys in federal districts throughout North Carolina (and the United States).

North Carolina is divided into three districts - Eastern, Middle, and Western - with the main courthouses located in Raleigh, Greensboro, and Charlotte respectively.

In certain cases, and at the sole discretion of federal prosecutors, a case may be prosecuted federally. If the state has also launched a prosecution, the adoption of the case by federal authorities will usually result in the eventual dismissal of state charges.

In rare cases, both the federal government and state of North Carolina may decided to conduct simultaneous or sequential prosecutions.

We maintain a vibrant federal practice including both retained and CJA panel cases, and have tried federal felonies and misdemeanors. In addition, we have prosecuted 28 USC 2255 (ineffective assistance cases), and have litigated post-conviction matters.

We have also represented clients in civil asset forfeiture actions, and have defended clients under federal investigation or people who have been subpoenaed to testify before federal grand juries.