State v. White, 230 N.C. 513 (1949)

May 25, 1949 · Supreme Court of North Carolina
230 N.C. 513


(Filed 25 May, 1949.)

1. Criminal Law § 62f—

Where defendant appeals to the Superior Court from a suspended sentence entered in a municipal court, he may not complain that upon his plea of guilty in the Superior Court, sentence is entered without conditional or elective suspension.

2. Bills and Notes § 37—

The offense proscribed by G.S. 14-107 is not the attempted payment of a debt, but the giving of a worthless check with its resulting injury to society in undermining confidence in negotiable paper.

3. Criminal Law § 62a—

A sentence of 18 months on the roads entered upon defendant’s plea of guilty to a misdemeanor is within that permitted by law, and therefore cannot be “cruel and unusual” in a constitutional sense. Constitution of N. C., Art. I, Sec. 14.

Appeal by defendant from Bobbitt, J'., at December Term, 1948, of Guileoed (High Point Division).

Criminal prosecution on warrant charging the defendant with drawing and uttering a worthless check in violation of G.S. 14-107.

On 17 August, 1948, the defendant gave the Powell Motor Company of High Point a check drawn on a Charlotte bank for $1,535.00 in payment of an automobile. The check was returned marked “Insufficient Funds.” The defendant requested that it be redeposited, which was done, and it was again dishonored.

Warrant was issued for the defendant on 30 August, 1948. From a conviction in the Municipal Court of the City of High Point and sentence of 18 months on the roads, suspended on condition the defendant pay the *514bolder tbe amount of tbe check and tbe costs of tbe action, tbe defendant appealed to tbe Superior Court of Guilford County.

In tbe Superior Court, tbe defendant, through counsel, entered a plea of guilty and was sentenced to 18 months on tbe roads.

Tbe defendant appeals, alleging that tbe sentence imposed is excessive and violative of Art. I, Sec. 14, North Carolina Constitution.

Attorney-General McMullan, Assistant Attorney-General Moody, and John R. Jordan, Jr., Member of Staff, for the State.

Yorle, Morgan & Yorh for defendant.

Stacy, C. J.

Tbe question for decision is tbe reasonableness of tbe punishment inflicted. Tbe defendant was given an opportunity in tbe Municipal Court to escape the road sentence there imposed by paying bis check and tbe costs of tbe action. This be elected not to do.

He was given tbe same sentence upon a plea of guilty in tbe Superior Court without any conditional or elective suspension. He would now like to go back and accept tbe conditions attached to tbe sentence in tbe Municipal Court. These conditions, however, are no longer available to him.

His appeal here is to test tbe alleged cruelty and unusuality of tbe punishment inflicted in tbe Superior Court where be entered a plea of guilty to tbe offense charged.

Tbe defendant was given two chances by tbe bolder of tbe check, and two by tbe Municipal Court. Tbe Superior Court evidently thought tbe best way to take bis bad checks out of circulation was to take him out of circulation for awhile. A check is a negotiable instrument and passes readily through tbe channels of commerce because of tbe faith and confidence which those in tbe marketplaces are willing to repose in negotiable paper, and it is an injury to society to undermine this confidence. It is not tbe attempted payment of a debt that is condemned by tbe statute, but tbe giving of a worthless check and its consequent disturbance of business integrity. S. v. Yarboro, 194 N.C. 498, 140 S.E. 216.

Tbe sentence imposed is less than tbe punishment heretofore approved in a number of misdemeanor cases. It cannot be said to be “cruel and unusual” in a constitutional sense. Tbe judgment will be affirmed on ' authority of S. v. Levy, 220 N.C. 812, 18 S.E. 2d 355; S. v. Parker, 220 N.C. 416, 17 S.E. 2d 475; S. v. Brackett, 218 N.C. 369, 11 S.E. 2d 146; S. v. Wilson, 218 N.C. 769, 12 S.E. 2d 654.