Understanding What is Considered a Felony in North Carolina

Posted on behalf of The Nye Law Group on Jul 14, 2017 in Criminal Law

man handcuffedNorth Carolina has two broad categories of crimes: felonies and misdemeanors. The state's statutory definition of a felony says that a crime is a felony if it was a felony at common law or is classified as such by state statute. These offenses may be punishable by death or imprisonment in the state prison system.

In North Carolina, felonies are divided into 10 categories, from Class A, the most serious, to Class I, the least serious. These classifications are explained in greater detail below, along with examples of crimes in these classes.

If you have been charged with a felony, you need to contact a Charlotte criminal law attorney right away so he or she can begin aggressively defending your rights. The experienced attorneys at the Nye Law Group are committed to trying to achieve the best outcome possible. Schedule a free consultation today to find out how we can help you.

Felony Classifications

These are the classifications of felonies in North Carolina from most serious to least serious, along with examples of offenses that fall within these categories:

High-Level Felonies

Class A offenses are deemed the most serious. They include murder in the first degree and the unlawful use of a nuclear, biological or chemical weapon of mass destruction. The maximum penalty for this type of offense is life in prison or death.

Along with Class A, other high-level felonies include Class B1 or B2, Class C, and Class D. Examples of offenses in these categories include:

  • First-degree sexual offense
  • Second-degree murder
  • Second-degree rape
  • First-degree kidnapping
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Armed robbery

These crimes are also punished harshly with the possibility of the defendant being sentenced to decades behind bars.

Mid-Level Felonies

This includes Class E, F or G offenses, such as:

  • Child abuse
  • Assault with a firearm on a law enforcement officer
  • Common-law robbery
  • Assault with a deadly weapon
  • Arson of public buildings
  • Habitual impaired driving

Punishments for these crimes vary widely with some defendants receiving intensive and prolonged probation and others receiving long prison sentences. Certain drug trafficking crimes in this category carry mandatory minimum jail sentences.

Low-Level Felonies

This includes Class H and Class I offenses. These felonies generally do not carry a mandatory minimum sentence that requires jail time. Often, probation, house arrest, community service or substance abuse counseling is imposed as punishment instead of jail time.

Some Class H offenses that fall in this category include:

  • Habitual misdemeanor assault
  • Breaking or entering a building with felonious intent
  • Larceny of property worth more than $1,000
  • First-degree forgery
  • Escaping from state prison
  • Hit and run resulting in injury

Class I offenses are the least serious. They include:

  • Possession of marijuana
  • Financial transaction card theft
  • Forgery of notes, checks or securities
  • Breaking or entering motor vehicles

The maximum penalty for a Class I offense is 24 months in jail.

Felony Sentencing

The actual sentence imposed on a convicted defendant depends on a number of factors, including the individual facts of the case, the defendant’s criminal record and whether the defendant makes an agreement with the district attorney’s office.

North Carolina uses a structured sentencing system that involves the following steps to determine the appropriate punishment for the defendant:

  • Identifying the offense class for each felony conviction
  • Determining the prior record level for the offense
  • Considering factors that make the defendant more or less culpable
  • Finding the appropriate minimum sentence and maximum sentence
  • Determining the sentence imposition

After these steps are followed, there is some flexibility regarding whether the defendant is sentenced to the minimum or maximum punishment and whether he or she will have the sentence immediately imposed or suspended. Sentencing may involve intermediate punishments, probation or community punishments.

How Are Felony Cases Handled in North Carolina?

People charged with crimes often have questions about the criminal law process.

Felony cases are filed in district court. Low-level felonies may be resolved in this court, often through plea agreements that reduce the charges.

If the case is not resolved at this level, the prosecution presents the case to a grand jury. The grand jury returns a true bill of indictment if it believes there is probable cause that the defendant committed the charged felony.

The case is then transferred to superior court. This represents an additional opportunity to resolve the case through a plea bargain.

If no agreement is reached, the defendant often pleads not guilty and may request a jury trial. The trial is held in front of 12 impartial jurors who are randomly chosen from the community.

The prosecution has the burden of showing that the criminal defendant committed each element of the crime by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution fails to meet its burden, the jury must return a verdict of not guilty. If the jury finds the defendant guilty, the judge imposes a sentence. 

Contact One of Our Criminal Defense Attorneys

A felony conviction can carry severe penalties, including a lengthy prison sentence, the creation of a criminal record and possibly a death sentence.

If you are facing a felony charge, contact one of our reputable criminal defense lawyers immediately. We can build an aggressive defense on your behalf to help minimize the negative consequences of your case.

We will try to get the charges dismissed if possible. We also negotiate plea bargains on behalf of our clients to minimize any sentence imposed and are prepared to represent you in a trial.

Call 855-856-4212 or fill out a Free Case Evaluation form to schedule a free consultation.

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We are committed to fighting for justice and compensation for injury victims who have suffered because of another’s negligence in auto accidents, medical malpractice, nursing home abuse and many other situations.

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