Criminal Law

In North Carolina, there are two main classes of crimes: misdemeanors and felonies.

While both misdemeanors and felonies are divided into different classes depending upon the seriousness of the offense, felonies typically carry harsher punishments than do misdemeanors.

If an individual has been charged with a crime, the ultimate outcome is dependent upon the individual facts of the case, the defendant’s prior criminal history, and any type of agreements the defendant enters into with the office of the District Attorney.

Below, you can read more about the differences between misdemeanors and felonies, and the punishment that each can potentially carry.

Misdemeanors

Classes

Misdemeanors are divided into four different classes. Each class carries with it a specific classification, along with a specified fine and punishment.

Class 3: a class 3 misdemeanor is the least serious type of misdemeanor, and therefore carries the least serious potential punishment.  Examples of class 3 misdemeanors include: simple possession of marijuana, second degree trespass, driving while licensed revoked, and concealing goods in a store.

Class 2: a class 2 misdemeanor is a step more serious than a class 3 misdemeanor, and therefore can potentially carry a harsher punishment.  Examples of class 2 misdemeanors include: simple assault, resisting a police officer, carrying a concealed weapon, and disorderly conduct.

Class 1: a class 1 misdemeanor is a step more serious than a class 2 misdemeanor, and therefore can potentially carry a harsher punishment.  Examples of class 1 misdemeanors include: larceny, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of stolen goods, and driving while licensed revoked if your licensed was revoked for a DWI.

Class A1: a class A1 misdemeanor is the most serious class of misdemeanors, and therefore carries the harshest potential punishment.  Examples of class A1 misdemeanors include: assault with a deadly weapon, assault on a female, and assault inflicting serious injury.

There are some misdemeanors that are not covered by the above classifications, which are subject to different guidelines and punishments.

Punishment

Punishment for a misdemeanor can include both imprisonment and monetary fines.  The length of a defendant’s sentence is largely influenced by any prior criminal history.

Class 3: a class 3 misdemeanor carries with it a maximum of 20 days of imprisonment and a maximum $200.00 fine.

Class 2: a class 2 misdemeanor carries with it a maximum of 60 days of imprisonment and a maximum $1,000.00 fine.

Class 1: a class 1 misdemeanor carries with it a maximum of 120 days of improvement.  There is no maximum or minimum fine, because the amount of the fine is left to the discretion of the judge.

Class A1: a class A1 misdemeanor carries with it a maximum of 150 days of improvement.  There is no maximum or minimum fine, because the amount of the fine is left to the discretion of the judge.

For all four classes of misdemeanors, community, intermediate, and active punishment is authorized.

Have you been charged with a misdemeanor? Call the Khan Law Firm today at (336) 905-4705!

Felonies

Classes & Punishment

Like misdemeanors, each class of felony carries with it a specific classification, along with a fine and punishment.  Fines associated with felonies, however, are left to the discretion of the court.

The punishment associated with felonies includes some sort of sentencing imposed by the court, which is largely dependent upon the felony committed and the defendant’s criminal history.  Below are the potential minimum sentence ranges for each class.

Class I: a class I felony is the least severe felony.  It carries a minimum potential sentence range of 3-12 months.  Examples of a class I felony include forgery, counterfeiting, or possessing tools for counterfeiting.

Class H: a class H felony carries a minimum potential sentence range of 4-25 months.  Examples of a class H felony include: larceny of property over $1,000.00, assault against law enforcement or first responder, or breaking and entering buildings.

Class G: a class G felony carries minimum potential sentence range of 8-31 months.  Examples of a class G felony include: domestic criminal trespass or common law robbery.

Class F: a class F felony carries minimum potential sentence range of 10-41 months. Examples of a class F felony include: involuntary manslaughter or assault inflicting serious bodily injury.

Class E: a class E felony carries minimum potential sentence range of 15-63 months.  Examples of a class E felony include: assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious bodily injury or kidnapping in the second degree.

Class D: a class D felony carries minimum potential sentence range of 38-160 months.  Examples of a class D felony include: voluntary manslaughter or burglary in the first degree.

Class C: a class C felony carries minimum potential sentence range of 44-182 months.  Examples of a class C felony include: second degree forcible rape or assault with a deadly weapon intending to kill inflicting serious bodily injury.

Class B2: a class B felony carries minimum potential sentence range of 94-393 months. Examples of a class B2 felony include: murder in the second degree or human trafficking of a minor.

Class B1: a class B1 felony carries minimum potential sentence range of 144 months to life without parole.  Examples of a class B1 felony include murder in the second degree or first degree forcible rape.

Class A: a class A felony is the most severe felony in North Carolina.  They carry a maximum potential punishment of death or life in prison with or without the possibility of parole.  If the defendant is under the age of 18 years, the maximum potential punishment is life in prison with or without the possibility of parole.  A Class A felony includes murder in the first degree.

Sentencing Types

One of the primary differences in sentencing between felonies and misdemeanors, is that when a defendant is convicted of a felony, the court must consider the dispositional range.  The dispositional range is the potential sentencing length that the court can impose for any felony conviction.

When determining the dispositional range, the court must determine whether the offense falls into the  presumptive, aggravated, or mitigated range—whether the felony falls into a presumptive, aggravated, or mitigated range plays a role in determining the overall sentencing of the defendant.

Presumptive: presumptive ranges are the standard sentences for any given felony.  If the court does not find any aggravated or mitigating factors, the court will sentence the defendant within the presumptive range.

Aggravated: aggravated ranges arise when the court finds aggravating factors present.  An aggravating factor is a circumstance present during the commission of the felony that makes the commission of the felony “worse” in the eyes of the court, and therefore consider a longer sentence in the dispositional range.  Potential aggravating factors include: a very young or very old victim, the defendant was hired to commit the crime, the defendant played a role of leadership in the crime, or the crime was unusually cruel or heinous.

Mitigated: mitigated ranges arise when the court finds mitigating factors present.  A mitigating factor is a circumstance present at the time of the commission of the felony that makes the court consider a lesser sentence in the dispositional range.  Potential mitigating factors include: the defendant committed the felony under duress or coercion, the defendant is a person of good character and good reputation in the community, the defendant supports his or her family, or the defendant has made restitution to the victim.

Like misdemeanors, the potential sentencing for a felony may be undertaken as community sentencing, intermediate sentencing, or active sentencing.

Community: community sentencing allows a defendant to serve their time under house arrest, in a drug treatment center, completing community service, or some other punishment as allowed by law.

Intermediate: intermediate sentencing includes supervised probation along with a condition of probation, which may include serving some jail time.

Active: active sentencing means that the defendant must serve their time in prison.