The 2013 General Assembly approved a measure (Session Law 2013-300) that, if approved as an amendment to the N.C. Constitution would change how some criminal trials are conducted. If approved by the voters, Section 24 of Article I of the North Carolina Constitution would be changed to read as follows:
Sec. 24. Right of jury trial in criminal cases.
No person shall be convicted of any crime but by the unanimous verdict of a jury in open court, except that a person accused of any criminal offense for which the State is not seeking a sentence of death in superior court may, in writing or on the record in the court and with the consent of the trial judge, waive jury trial, subject to procedures prescribed by the General Assembly. The General Assembly may, however, provide for other means of trial for misdemeanors, with the right of appeal for trial de novo."
The General Assembly also approved the language that voters will see on the ballot as they consider this constitutional amendment:
[ ] FOR [ ] AGAINST
Constitutional amendment providing that a person accused of any criminal offense for which the State is not seeking a sentence of death in superior court may, in writing or on the record in court and with the consent of the trial judge, waive the person's right to a trial by jury."
At this time the NC Demoratic Party has no official position on the amendment.
Here is the official explanation adopted by the Commission:
The North Carolina Constitution currently states that a person accused of a crime and who is not pleading guilty to that charge cannot be convicted unless a jury decides the person is guilty.
The proposed Amendment to the Constitution would allow a person accused of a crime to choose to be tried by either a judge or a jury. Choosing not to have a jury trial is called waiving the right to a jury trial. If passed, the proposed amendment would require a person wanting to waive the right to a jury trial to say so in court or in writing. A judge would then have to agree to that request. If a person accused of a crime waives the right to a jury trial, a judge would decide whether the person is guilty.
Jury trials would still be required in all cases with a possibility of a death sentence. Nothing in this proposed amendment changes federal law regarding criminal trials.
If the majority of voters vote "FOR" for the Amendment, a person accused of a crime will be able to waive the right to a jury trial in cases as described above.
If the majority of voters do not vote "FOR" the Amendment, the law will not change and a person accused of a crime will not be able to waive the right to a jury trial.
Other Information about the Ammendment
Understanding North Carolina’s Proposed Constitutional Amendment Allowing Non-Jury Felony Trials - Jeffrey B. Welty and Komal K. Patel (Please note this is a large file in a PDF format.)
NC Secretary of State Press Release regarding the Amendment