(o) Evidentiary Standards; Proof of Prior Convictions. – In the sentencing hearing, the State shall prove any grossly aggravating or aggravating factor beyond a reasonable doubt, and the defendant shall prove any mitigating factor by the greater weight of the evidence. Evidence adduced by either party at trial may be utilized in the sentencing hearing. Except as modified by this section, the procedure in G.S. 15A-1334(b) governs. The judge may accept any evidence as to the presence or absence of previous convictions that he finds reliable but he shall give prima facie effect to convictions recorded by the Division or any other agency of the State of North Carolina. A copy of such conviction records transmitted by the police information network in general accordance with the procedure authorized by G.S. 20-26(b) is admissible in evidence without further authentication. If the judge decides to impose an active sentence of imprisonment that would not have been imposed but for a prior conviction of an offense, the judge shall afford the defendant an opportunity to introduce evidence that the prior conviction had been obtained in a case in which he was indigent, had no counsel, and had not waived his right to counsel. If the defendant proves by the preponderance of the evidence all three above facts concerning the prior case, the conviction may not be used as a grossly aggravating or aggravating factor.
(p) Limit on Amelioration of Punishment. – For active terms of imprisonment imposed under this section: