Challenging Jurisdiction in N.C. District Court
Some Underlying Principles
First you must realize that for a prosecutor to have a valid case they must have proof of their jurisdiction over you. We know this because whenever Federal and State jurisdiction have overlap, they sure do fight to prove their jurisdiction. But it is always determined early on. There have also been several rulings (both modern and older) confirming that jurisdiction can be challenged at any point in a case. Further underlining its significance.
Second, you have to be confident in the morality and honor in what you are trying to defend. For myself this is not very difficult, as by committing the "crime" of driving without a little sticker on my vehicle, I hurt no one. The fact that the state has then used that excuse to deprive me of my property clearly speaks to the dishonor of their actions.
Third, don't make assertions. Ask questions. The Socratic Method is a powerful tool. You must be very aware of what you are saying and hearing; but if you ask the proper question it can very easily highlight contradictions and lies.
And finally the goal is to get the court to recognize that the prosecution lacks jurisdictional evidence. They often know exactly what's happening, but will not honor your questions until they are backed into a corner. From embarrassment, unavoidable process, or by having their job security challenged.
The court's bottom line is to push you through the process. Especially in traffic court they have crafted and honed an effective assembly line process for getting convictions. These people are not stupid. They do have a brittle set of procedures though. And as soon as you veer off their script, it will unsettle them. Many will not react kindly. Reaffirming that you need to make your plea is their way of doing all they can to keep the process moving forward.
Your questions of proof of jurisdiction is your most powerful weapon. They cannot (legally/systematically) proceed until you say "Yes I understand the charges against me, and willfully plead guilty/not guilty/no contest." So don't give it to them no matter how forceful they are.
Common Mistakes Judges Make
The first and most obvious of their reactions is to enter a plea on your behalf. This can be justified when the defendant is refusing to plea. So make it clear that you have every intention of pleading, you simply are lacking the information and clarity you need to do so.
A second common response, is when the judge answers a question that you did not ask. Which becomes clear when you ask a yes or no question and they respond without saying either of those words.
Other responses are often the judge making assumptions that they are not in a place to make. Anytime that happens you have the right to object and ask them if they are practicing law from the bench.
Please whatever you do, don't lose your cool. Smile kindly, thank them all for any response you get, be apologetic, and ask do not demand. Stand when you are told, or when you are addressing the judge. Yes, many may argue that all of this is unnecessary. These are niceties that should be optional, but that isn't the case.
The world that judges and court employees operate within is much different than the world that exists between common people. It is much more effective to abide by their rules and use their own rules against them. After all, most of the rules have their roots in legal traditions that may have been very fair when conceived. Simply ignoring the rules will only cause you more grief and lower your effectiveness.
Hopefully this has given you a bit of an idea on how you can represent yourself in court. And to keep yourself from getting lost in the details of their language and system. Keeping a checklist of point in front of you is all it takes sometimes to keep yourself on point. Don't forget to take notes, keep calm, and carry on. Good luck!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.