Johnston County, North Carolina

Johnston County, North Carolina is one of the fastest growing counties in the United States, and the fastest growing county in North Carolina. In 2009, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated Johnston County's population at 168,525, a 38.2% increase from the year 2000. Propelling Johnston County’s growth is its strategic location in the central portion of North Carolina, at the crossroads of Interstates 95 and 40, major north-south and east-west arteries. The less hectic Johnston County lifestyle tends to attract new residents who enjoy having the metropolitan amenities of the Research Triangle, which is less than a 30-minute drive away.

Johnston County, NC encompasses 791.85 square miles and is home to 11 cities and towns - Smithfield, (the county seat), Clayton, Selma, Benson (at the intersection of Interstate 95 and Interstate 40), Archer Lodge, Kenly, Four Oaks, Pine Level, Princeton, Wilson's Mills, Micro, and several unincorporated communities.

Smithfield, Johnston's first town, grew at the site of Smith's Ferry on the Neuse River. The courthouse was relocated there in 1771, and the town was incorporated in 1777. The completion of the 223-mile North Carolina Railroad in 1856 gave rise to towns at Princeton, Pine Level, Selma, and Clayton, as well as a thriving industrial village at Wilson's Mills. In 1886, the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad completed a second major line through Johnston County. The towns of Kenly, Micro, Four Oaks, and Benson started along this line.

Archer Lodge in Johnston County is North Carolina's newest town. On November 3, 2009, the people of Archer Lodge voted to make their community a town. The vote was made official one week later and residents are currently planning the town's future.

Once-rural Johnston County, NC, has experienced consistent growth over the last decade, presenting new challenges for the Johnston County schools. The district serves over 32,000 students in kindergarten through twelfth grade--a student population that has doubled in the past 15 years.

Johnston County boasts a number of attractions, such as the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield, the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site in Four Oaks, and the Tobacco Farm Life Museum in Kenly. Johnston County is well known as a destination for outlet shopping, with the largest selection of outlet stores in the state. The Carolina Premium Outlets, just off Interstate 95, is a popular destination for both visitors and residents alike.

Johnston County's largest celebration, Benson Mule Days, takes place annually in Benson in September. Begun in 1950, Mule Days originated as a harvest festival to honor the surrounding farm community and its beast of burden, the mule. Over the years the celebration has grown to attract over 60,000 people for the three-day festival with parades, beauty queens, rodeos, street dances, bluegrass music, arts, crafts, and barbecue.

The Johnston County Sheriff's Office is responsible for law enforcement in the unincorporated parts of the county and managing the Johnston County Jail in Smithfield. Motorists in Johnston County need to take care to avoid speeding along the busy I-95 and I-40 corridors in Johnston County, North Carolina, as driving 15 miles per hour over the posted speed limit or in excess of 70 mph is an offense subject to arrest.

According to DrinkingAndDriving.Org, 79 people per 10,000 are arrested for DUI in Johnston County, NC, annually. The nonprofit organization gave Johnston County a “D” grade for the number of drunk driving citations given annually. Grades are based on the average yearly number of DUI arrests per 10,000 people, with an “A” grade representing 0-22 DUI arrests per 10,000 people annually.

In calculating DWI fines and penalties in the State of North Carolina, many variables, including grossly aggravating, aggravating, and mitigating factors, determine what punishment a driver will receive if arrested and convicted of a DWI, as reported by the University of North Carolina paper entitled “DWI Sentencing In District Court.”

In Johnston County and across North Carolina, you'll find two trial courts that hear criminal cases: Superior Court and District Court. The Johnston County Courthouse is located at 207 East Johnston Street in Smithfield, with an additional location at 303 East Church Street in Benson.

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 NC'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. If you're confused about the terms you hear in court, you may find this listing of criminal law terms helpful.