Benson, North Carolina, a small town in Johnston County, covers just a little over two square miles. The Town of Benson is named in honor of early settler Alfred Monroe Benson, who bought a 402-acre tract of land in 1874 and sold off portions to settlers who wished to take advantage of the town's strategic location along the railroad line.
While a railroad still runs through the center of town, Benson, NC benefits from a strategic location at the intersection of Interstates 95 and 40, only 22 miles southeast of Raleigh. Benson, North Carolina lies just beyond the edge of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill metro area, so residents enjoy a friendly, small-town atmosphere within easy driving distance of the amenities of the Research Triangle region. In 2000, 2,923 people lived in Benson (U.S. Census).
In addition to Interstate 95, the major north-south route of the Eastern United States, and Interstate 40, a major east-west route from coast to coast, other highways serving the town are U.S. 301, N.C. 242, N.C. 27, and N.C. 50. North Carolina's largest airport, the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, is 35 miles north of Benson, NC.
The mild four-season climate allows residents to enjoy the numerous parks and recreation facilities located within the town. In addition, the surrounding countryside provides numerous opportunities for hiking, camping, canoeing and kayaking, hunting and fishing.
Benson Mule Days, which draws over 60,000 people each year to Benson, and the State Annual Singing Convention, which has been held each year in Benson since 1921, are popular annual events. Other attractions include the Benson Museum of Local History, which is located at the Benson Municipal Building with the town municipal offices, the Benson Area Chamber of Commerce, the police department, and the local court facility.
The Benson Police Department provides professional police services to the town. In 2003, the Benson Police Department created a Traffic Enforcement Officer position. A grant allowed the town to purchase a cargo trailer for the Traffic Enforcement Officer to use during DWI checkpoints. The Highway Safety Trailer allows the officer to safely conduct these DUI checkpoints, with floodlights and a generator (which can be housed in the trailer). According to DrinkingAndDriving.Org, 79 people per 10,000 are arrested for DUI in Johnston County, NC annually, with Benson contributing to the total number of arrests.
In Benson and across North Carolina, you'll find two trial courts that hear criminal cases: the Superior Court and the District Court. In Benson, you will likely visit the courthouse at 303 East Church St. If you’re confused about the terms you hear in court, you may find this listing of criminal law terms helpful.
The State Superior Court is divided into eight divisions and 46 districts. This trial court hears felony criminal cases, as well as misdemeanor and infraction appeals from District Court. The Superior Court hears civil cases where more than $10,000 is in controversy. North Carolina District Courts are divided into four categories: civil, criminal, juvenile, and magistrate. Like the Superior Court, the District Court sits in the county seat. Civil cases involving less than $10,000 are heard in District Court, as are divorce, custody, and child support matters. The District Court also hears criminal matters involving misdemeanors, infractions without a jury, and juvenile cases. A magistrate system is used to take guilty pleas in minor misdemeanors and traffic violations.
The Court of Appeals in Raleigh is NC's only intermediate appellate court. Fifteen judges sit in rotating panels of three, deciding questions of law on every case appealed from the Superior and District courts with the exception of death penalty cases. Appeals can range from a parking ticket case to a murder case. Cases where there is a dissent in the Court of Appeals go to the Supreme Court, as do those that the Supreme Court accepts for review through petition. Court of Appeals judges serve eight-year terms.
The Supreme Court of North Carolina, located in Raleigh, is the state's highest court and there is no further appeal in the state from its decisions. This court has a chief justice and six associate justices who sit together as a panel. The Supreme Court has no jury and makes no determination of fact; rather, it considers error in legal procedures or in judicial interpretation of the law.