Charged with a Crime in North Carolina?
Criminal Defense Lawyers Explain Charges and Penalties
A criminal conviction can drastically affect the rest of your life. You may face the possibility of jail time, fines and other penalties, and your reputation may be damaged. Additionally, a conviction may prevent you from finding work and/or housing in the future. Since so much hangs in the balance, you should always work a criminal defense lawyer with a history of success. Even innocence is not always an ironclad defense – law enforcement and prosecutors may not care about your side of the story, but will simply focus on getting a conviction. An attorney can work to enforce your rights and expose any misconduct or negligence that may have led to your arrest. In many cases, a good lawyer can get your charges or penalties reduced, minimizing the negative impact on your life.
If you have been arrested or someone you know was taken into police custody, then you should find a lawyer as quickly as possible. No matter what kinds of charges you face, from a misdemeanor to a felony, finding an attorney you trust is essential. To speak with a local North Carolina criminal lawyer today, consult our local listings.
What Are the Basic Types of Criminal Charges?
The type of criminal charge you face may vary depending on the nature of the alleged crime. Although each state has its own specific classifications, the general types of charges are:
- Infraction. An infraction is the least serious type of charge you can face. In fact, some states handle infractions as civil cases, rather than criminal cases. Traffic violations and other minor offenses usually fall into this category. Jail is generally not a possibility for infractions, so you are not entitled to a jury trial and the state will usually not appoint you a lawyer. However, you can still hire one of your own.
- Petty offense. Some states categorize low-level criminal conduct as petty offenses. This may include illegal acts like gambling, disturbing the peace, public indecency, pollution violations and theft of items of low value.
- Misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is a more serious charge and county courts typically handle these cases. Common misdemeanor charges include assault, criminal trespass, theft and certain drug crimes, including possession and sale.
- Felony. This is the most serious type of criminal charge and state and/or federal courts usually handle these cases. Common felonies include murder, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, vehicular homicide, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and certain drug crimes.
In some cases, a criminal defense lawyer can negotiate on your behalf with the prosecution to reduce the severity of the charges you face. If the court reduces your charge from a low-level felony to a misdemeanor, for example, then the repercussions you face may be much less serious.
What Is the Penalty for a Misdemeanor in North Carolina?
Each state has its own system for classifying misdemeanor and felony charges, and penalties may vary as well. North Carolina organizes misdemeanors into four categories: Class AI misdemeanors are the most serious type, while Classes 1, 2, and 3 represent lesser offenses. Class 3 offenses are the least serious type of misdemeanor crime. The general penalties you may face for the different types of criminal charges in North Carolina are:
- Class A1: Includes crimes such as assault with a deadly weapon, assault inflicting serious injury, assault on a female or a government employee, battery on an unborn child, and simple assault or battery upon a person with disabilities. May result in 1 to 150 days of active, intermediate, or community punishment, and any fine that the court deems appropriate.
- Class 1: Includes crimes such as possession of drug paraphernalia, larceny, possession of stolen goods, damaging real or personal property, communicating threats, simple assault or battery, or breaking into a coin or currency operated machine. May result in 1 to 120 days of active, intermediate, or community punishment, and any fine that the court deems appropriate.
- Class 2: Includes crimes such as carrying a gun without a permit, hazing, disorderly conduct, resisting a police officer, and carrying a concealed weapon. May result in 1 to 60 days of active, intermediate, or community punishment, and a fine of up to $1,000.
- Class 3: Includes crimes such as simple possession of marijuana, concealing goods in a store and city code violations, removal of shopping cart from shopping premises and misuse of 911 system. May result in 1 to 20 days of days of active, intermediate, or community punishment, and a fine of up to $200.
Additionally, everyone convicted of a misdemeanor offense in North Carolina is categorized into one of three prior conviction levels: Level I, Level II, and Level III.
- Level I: a person who has no previous convictions
- Level II: a person who has between 1-4 previous convictions
- Level III: a person who has 5 or more previous convictions
Once a court has determined the defendant’s prior conviction level, it can impose a sentence that falls within the range of penalties for that class and level. Meaning, if your prior criminal history fell within a Level II or Level III conviction level, your sentence would be more severe than if you were classified into Level I.
What Is the Penalty for a Felony in North Carolina?
Like misdemeanors, each state has its own system for what qualifies as a felony and what penalties may result from a conviction. North Carolina organizes felony crimes into 10 different lettered categories, from Class A to I, with Class B felonies further divided into Class BI and Class B2. Class A felonies are the most serious crimes a person can commit, while Class I felonies are considered the least serious type of felony offense.
In North Carolina, penalties for each of the classifications include:
- Class A felony: Includes crimes such as murder, voluntary manslaughter, and armed robbery. Class A felonies are subject to punishment of death or life without parole
- Class B1 felony: Includes crimes such as rape and aggravated child molestionat. Subject to punishment of 144 months to life without parole.
- Class B2 felony: Includes crimes such as assault with a deadly weapon and conspiracy to commit a Class A or B1 felony. Subject to punishment between a 94 to 393 month jail sentence.
- Class C felony: Includes crimes such as aggravated assault and kidnapping. Subject to punishment of between a 44 to 182 month jail sentence.
- Class D felony: Includes crimes such as armed robbery and first-degree arson. Subject to punishment of between a 38 to 160 month jail sentence
- Class E felony: Includes crimes such as child molestation and malicious throwing of corrosive acid or alkaline. Subject to punishment of between a 15 to 63 month jail sentence.
- Class F felony: Includes crimes such as involuntary manslaughter and human trafficking of an adult and faces a 10 to 41 month jail sentence.
- Class G felony: Includes crimes such as robbery and intimidating or interfering with witnesses, and faces an 8 to 31 month jail sentence.
- Class H felony: Includes crimes such as first-degree forgery and use of a laser device towards an aircraft, and faces a 4 to 25 month jail sentence.
- Class I felony: Includes crimes such as making terroristic threats and larceny of a dog, and faces a 3 to 12 month jail sentence.
Additionally, as with misdemeanors, North Carolina keeps track of citizens’ prior conviction records using their own devised categorization. For each prior felony conviction, the defendant is given points based on the following criteria:
- Each prior Class A felony conviction: 10 points
- Each prior Class BI felony conviction: 9 points
- Each prior Class B2, C, or D felony conviction: 6 points
- Each prior Class E, F, or G felony conviction: 4 points
- Each prior Class H or I felony conviction: 2 points
- Each prior misdemeanor conviction: 1 point
By adding up all of the prior convictions and determining how many points a defendant has, you can determine the defendant’s prior conviction level:
- Level I: 0 to 1 point
- Level II: 2-5 points
- Level III: 6-9 points
- Level IV: 10–13 points
- Level V: 14–17 points
- Level VI: 18 or more points
Need a North Carolina Criminal Defense Lawyer? We Can Help
If you are facing any level of criminal charge, then a qualified lawyer may be essential to protecting your future. Additionally, if someone you know is currently in police custody, then you may wish to reach out to a lawyer on his or her behalf. To find a North Carolina criminal defense lawyer in your area, then consult our attorney listings. If you have general question about criminal law or certain charges, then do not hesitate to ask the lawyers.