Smithfield, North Carolina, the county seat of Johnston County, is a small town of 11,500 residents (U.S. Census 2000). The town, located 28 miles southeast of Raleigh, is enjoying the same rapid growth as Johnston County as a whole. The relaxed lifestyle in Smithfield attracts new residents who wish to remain within easy driving distance of the amenities of the Research Triangle region.
Smithfield is easily accessible from land, rail, and air. Smithfield is served by I-95, I-40, and U.S. 70, making travel along the eastern seaboard simple and convenient. The Raleigh-Durham International Airport provides nearby air transportation, as does the Johnston County Airport, which is located just west of Smithfield. Passenger rail service is available via Amtrak at the recently renovated Selma Railroad Depot.
Johnston County Schools, headquartered in Smithfield, is the largest employer. The district serves over 32,000 students in kindergarten through twelfth grade--a student population that has doubled in the past 15 years. The Johnston County government and Talecris Biotherapeutics in Clayton are the next largest employers of Smithfield residents.
Smithfield, NC is well known as the home of the Ava Gardner Museum but boasts several other attractions, including Carolina Premium Outlets and the Heritage Center, which is dedicated to preserving the history and culture of Johnston County.
The Smithfield Police Department provides law enforcement services to the community, including enforcing traffic laws. 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 Smithfield and across North Carolina, you'll find two trial courts that hear criminal cases: the Superior Court and the District Court. As the county seat, Smithfield is home to the Johnston County Courthouse, located at 207 East Johnston St. Smithfield was chartered as a town in 1777, when it was simply known as the Johnston County Courthouse.
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 in which 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. If you’re confused about the terms you hear in court, you may find this listing of criminal law terms helpful.