Stipulations to Out-Of-State Convictions

In State v. Palmateer, 179 N.C. App. 579, 634 S.E.2d 592 (2006), the defendant and the State stipulated to the accuracy of the contents of the defendant's prior record level worksheet, which contained several of the defendant's "out-of-state convictions, the date of these convictions, and their classification"; the stipulation included "'the classification and points assigned to any out-of-state convictions.'" Palmateer, 179 N.C. App. at 581, 634 S.E.2d at 593. However, our Court recently held in State v. Hanton 175 N.C. App. 250, 623 S.E.2d 600 (2006), that "the question of whether a conviction under an out-of-state statute is substantially similar to an offense under North Carolina statutes is a question of law to be resolved by the trial court." Our Court further stated that "'stipulations as to questions of law are generally held invalid and ineffective, and not binding upon the courts, either trial or appellate.'" Although this Court did not explicitly state that a defendant could not stipulate to the substantial similarity of out-of-state convictions, the Court did conclude that this Court's prior statement in State v. Hanton, 140 N.C. App. 679, 690, 540 S.E.2d 376, 383 (2000), that a defendant might stipulate to this question, was "non-binding dicta." We are bound by prior decisions of a panel of this Court. Thus, we conclude that the stipulation in the worksheet regarding Defendant's out-of-state convictions was ineffective. Accordingly, we remand for resentencing. Palmateer, 179 N.C. App. at 581-82, 634 S.E.2d at 593-94.