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Constitution of North Carolina

ARTICLE XI Punishments, Corrections, and Charities

Section 1. Punishments.

The following punishments only shall be known to the laws of this State: death, imprisonment, fines, suspension of a jail or prison term with or without conditions, restitution, community service, restraints on liberty, work programs, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under this State.

(1995, c. 429, s. 2.)

History Note. - The provisions of this section are similar to those of the first sentence of Art. XI, § 1, Const. 1868, as amended by the Convention of 1875.

Editor's Note. - The amendments to this section by Session Laws 1995, c. 429, s. 3, were submitted to the qualified voters of the State at the general election in November 1996 and were approved by the voters at that election. Session Laws 1995, c. 429, s. 4, provided that the amendments were effective upon certification by the State Board of Elections to the Secretary of State; certification was made on November 26, 1996.

Legal Periodicals. - For article on punishment for crime in North Carolina, see 17 N.C.L. Rev. 205 (1939).

For article, "Sentencing Due Process: Evolving Constitutional Principles," see 18 Wake Forest L. Rev. 523 (1982).

For article, "Innocence Modified," see 89 N.C. L. Rev. 1083 (2011).


Editor's Note. - Some of the cases cited below were decided under former Art. XI, § 1, Const. 1868, as amended.

The courts may impose only such punishments as are authorized by this section. State v. Cole, 241 N.C. 576, 86 S.E.2d 203 (1955).

Section Limits Remedial Creativity. - This provision, in effect since 1868, was intended to stop the use of degrading punishments theretofore inflicted, but as a necessary consequence it also limited the creativity of trial judges in fashioning remedies for crime. Shore v. Edmisten, 290 N.C. 628, 227 S.E.2d 553 (1976).

Conditional Suspension of Punishment. - As a consequence of the desire for more diverse responses to criminal behavior, the practice developed to suspend a constitutionally designated punishment with the consent of defendant upon his performance of conditions. And so long as these conditions are otherwise constitutional, related to the purposes of punishment, and otherwise reasonable they need not be limited to the type of punishment prescribed by this provision. Shore v. Edmisten, 290 N.C. 628, 227 S.E.2d 553 (1976).

The Constitution forbids both ignominious burial and forfeiture of estates as punishment for crime. State v. Willis, 255 N.C. 473, 121 S.E.2d 854 (1961).

Fines as Constitutional Punishment. - Fines are a pecuniary punishment extracted by the State. They are a permitted form of punishment under the state constitution. Florence v. Hiatt, 101 N.C. App. 539, 400 S.E.2d 118 (1991).

No Contact With Victims. - Sentence provision which precluded defendant from having any contact with the victims did not violate N.C. Const., Art. XI, § 1, as the no contact recommendation was not a mandatory and binding part of the judgment, but rather, much like an order of restitution; furthermore, it constituted a recommendation to the Secretary of the Department of Correction and the Parole Commission, not an order binding defendant upon entry of the judgment, as neither the Parole Commission nor the Department of Correction was bound by the judge's recommendation. State v. Curmon, 171 N.C. App. 697, 615 S.E.2d 417 (2005).

G.S § 15A-1340.50, pursuant to which a trial court permanently ordered defendant to have no contact with the victim of defendant's sexual offenses, did not violate the limitations on punishments in N.C. Const., Art. XI, § 1 because the statute imposed a civil remedy, as (1) the legislature intended, in the statute, to impose a civil regulatory scheme to protect a citizen who was victimized and in fear of further contact from defendant, and (2) no punitive purpose or effect negated that intent, as the statute's limited application and possibly limited duration showed the statute's reasonableness. State v. Hunt, 221 N.C. App. 48, 727 S.E.2d 584 (2012).

Suicide may not be punished in North Carolina. State v. Willis, 255 N.C. 473, 121 S.E.2d 854 (1961).

But the criminal character of the act of suicide is not changed. State v. Willis, 255 N.C. 473, 121 S.E.2d 854 (1961).

The Constitution and statutes have repealed and abrogated the common law as to suicide only as to punishment and possibly the quality of the offense. State v. Willis, 255 N.C. 473, 121 S.E.2d 854 (1961).

An attempt to commit suicide is an indictable misdemeanor in this State. State v. Willis, 255 N.C. 473, 121 S.E.2d 854 (1961).

Authority to Establish Prison System. - Under the provisions of this Article, the General Assembly has plenary authority to provide for a State prison system. Pharr v. Garibaldi, 252 N.C. 803, 115 S.E.2d 18 (1960).

This section has no direct application to the discipline required in jails and penitentiaries, for if so it would prevent solitary confinement, restriction of rations, and other reasonable punishments that are in customary use in prisons and penitentiaries. State v. Nipper, 166 N.C. 272, 81 S.E. 164 (1914).

But officers are civilly and criminally liable for abuse or oppression of the adopted regulations under which convicts are kept. State v. Young, 138 N.C. 571, 50 S.E. 213 (1905).

Regulations Governing Prisoners Must Be Reasonable. - Whether prisoners are worked on the public road or kept in jail, the regulations under which they must live must be reasonable. State v. Young, 138 N.C. 571, 50 S.E. 213 (1905).

Right and Duty of Prosecuting Attorney to Seek Death Penalty. - Where the grand jury, after investigation according to law, indicted defendant for murder in the first degree, and prosecuting attorney, after investigation, determined, on behalf of the State, that defendant should be tried for this offense, and that the death penalty should be sought, these determinations having been made on behalf of the State, it was the right and duty of the prosecuting attorney, vigorously, but fairly and in accordance with law, both in the presentation of evidence and in his argument, to seek that result. State v. Westbrook, 279 N.C. 18, 181 S.E.2d 572 (1971), death sentence vacated, 408 U.S. 939, 92 S. Ct. 2873, 33 L. Ed. 2d 761 (1972).

The term "life imprisonment without parole" falls within the meaning of the constitutional term "imprisonment," so the sentence was authorized by the Constitution. State v. Allen, 346 N.C. 731, 488 S.E.2d 188 (1997).

Cited in State v. Jarrette, 284 N.C. 625, 202 S.E.2d 721 (1974); Henry v. Edmisten, 315 N.C. 474, 340 S.E.2d 720 (1986).

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