At King Law, our experienced criminal defense team has the knowledge and experience to help you fight your misdemeanor charges. We will use our extensive experience in criminal cases to create an individualized defense strategy tailored to your unique circumstances. In this article, we will explain what a misdemeanor is, the legal consequences of a misdemeanor in North Carolina, and how our experienced misdemeanor lawyers can help you.
What Is a Misdemeanor Offense in North Carolina?
A misdemeanor is a criminal offense punishable by a fine, probation, or jail time. Misdemeanor offenses are typically less serious than felonies and include offenses such as shoplifting, disorderly conduct, and simple assault. In North Carolina, misdemeanors are divided into four classes:
Class A1 misdemeanors are the top tier and most serious of misdemeanor charges. Punishable by up to 150 days in jail and fines as determined by the court, some examples of Class A1 misdemeanors include assault on a female, larceny, stalking, and unlawful distribution of images.
Class 1 misdemeanors are the second most serious level of misdemeanor charges and include the most offenses. These are punishable by up to 120 days in jail and fines as determined by the court. Some examples of Class 1 misdemeanors include forcible trespass, false imprisonment, and forgery.
Class 2 misdemeanors are the third tier of misdemeanor charges. These are punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Some examples of Class 2 misdemeanors include indecent exposure, cyber stalking, and resisting officers.
Class 3 misdemeanors are the least serious of misdemeanor charges. These are punishable by a fine of up to $200 and up to 20 days in jail. Some examples of Class 3 misdemeanors include permitting animals to run at large, public intoxication, and simple possession of marijuana.
However, in some circumstances, prosecutors may add misdemeanor enhancements to any of the above charges. Enhancements may occur when the alleged behavior includes elements of a hate crime or gang activity and can result in harsher penalties. For example, a Class 1 misdemeanor may be enhanced to a Class A1 misdemeanor or even a felony if it is deemed a hate crime.
Potential Sentencing Structures of Misdemeanors in North Carolina
Under a grid system, North Carolina courts look at the level of the offense and the offender’s prior criminal record to determine the appropriate sentencing structure. Within the grid, three ranges of circumstances can affect the potential sentence for a misdemeanor offense.
History of Prior Convictions
The first criterion examined is the defendant’s prior criminal history. Depending on the individual’s history, there are three levels of prior criminal convictions:
- Level I: No prior conviction
- Level II: Between one and four prior convictions
- Level III: Five or more prior convictions
More prior convictions worsen the potential sentence.
The second criterion is the type of punishment the court can impose. In North Carolina, there are three primary types of punishments:
- Active punishment: Jail or prison time
- Intermediate punishment: Home confinement, community service, or intensive probation
- Alternative punishment: A combination of fines, restitution, or other alternative punishments such as community service or house arrest
Punishment type will be chosen based on the crime committed and conviction history.
Applying the Grid to Sentencing
Once these criteria are determined, North Carolina courts apply the grid to determine the appropriate sentencing structure for the defendant. Based on the level of the offense and the defendant’s prior criminal history, the court can impose a range of punishments.
For example, a Level III offender (five or more priors) accused of committing a Class 3 misdemeanor may receive the maximum penalties, fines, and jail time. A Level I (no priors) accused of a Class 3 misdemeanor may receive the least severe penalty or alternative punishment, such as community service.
Possible Defenses to Misdemeanor Charges
When facing misdemeanor charges, there are a variety of defenses that one can use. Depending on the specific details of your case, some common defenses that can be used include:
Lack of Evidence
If the prosecution does not have sufficient evidence to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, then you may be able to use lack of evidence as a defense. This is because the burden of proof lies on the prosecution and if they cannot prove your guilt, then you should be acquitted.
Mistake of Fact
If you can prove that you had a reasonable belief that you were not committing a criminal act, then you may be able to use mistake of fact as a defense. This means that you believed that you were acting lawfully, even though you were not.
If you can prove that you acted in self-defense or defense of another, then you may be able to use self-defense as a defense. This means you believed your actions were necessary to protect yourself or another person from harm.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for misdemeanor offenses in North Carolina is two years from the date you allegedly committed the crime. If you can prove that the statute of limitations has passed, the prosecution may not be able to bring a case against you.
Get Legal Help for Misdemeanor Charges – Contact King Law Today
Whether you’re a first-time offender or you have prior convictions, a misdemeanor charge can have serious consequences for your future. It is important to explore all of your legal options and to seek the help of an experienced misdemeanor attorney.
At King Law, our experienced criminal defense team understands the complexities of the criminal justice system and will work with you to craft a defense strategy tailored to your unique circumstances. Call us at (888) 748-5464 or (888) 748-KING today for a consultation. You can also fill out our contact form.