Does North Carolina Have a Three Strikes Law?

You may have heard about North Carolina's three strikes rule or three strikes you're out law. North Carolina's three-strikes law is called the "habitual felon" law. The habitual felony law says that when a person has been convicted or pleaded guilty to three or more felony charges in North Carolina, they will face more severe penalties. For example, suppose a defendant is facing a felony drug charge. The defendant has already been convicted three times for past felony drug charges. As a result, the defendant will face more severe penalties for their current felony drug charge due to the habitual felon law.

Will I Be Considered a Habitual Felon in North Carolina?

Not every defendant convicted of crimes in the past will be considered a habitual felon in North Carolina. N.C.G.S. § 14-7.1 Defines a habitual felon as any person convicted or pled guilty to three felony offenses in any state court or federal court in the united states or a combination thereof. In other words, you will be considered a habitual felon if you have been convicted or applied guilty in any variety of state or federal court three times in the past.

What If I Was Convicted of a Felony as a Minor?

What happens if you were convicted of a felony when you were a minor under 18? North Carolina did not count more than one felony conviction when the defendant was 18 years old or younger. For example, suppose a defendant committed felony assault charges when they were 15 and 17 years old. Only one of those convictions will count toward the three-strikes law. If the defendant received two or more additional felony charges after they turned 18, they would be considered habitual felons in North Carolina.

Habitual Felony Status is Determined By the Number of Court Sessions

Many felony charges are brought alongside other felony charges for the same offense, especially in cases involving drug charges. The status of a habitual felon is determined by the number of court sessions, not the number of prior felony convictions. Suppose a person has been convicted of four felonies in a single case. that individual will not be automatically considered a habitual felon because all of the convictions involved a single court case against them. Instead, that person would have to have been convicted of at least one felony in three different sessions with the superior court.

Habitual Felony Indictment is Not Mandatory

If you have been convicted of three separate felony charges, habitual felon indictment is not mandatory. Instead, it will be based on your prior criminal record. Additionally, the district attorney, or prosecutor, bringing your case will be able to pursue classification as a habitual felon. Classifying a defendant as a habitual felon begins after they have been indicted for an underlying felony. The prosecutor must bring a separate indictment requesting to try a case against a defendant as a habitual felon. The indictment needs to include the previous felonies for which the defendant has been convicted and the dates of those convictions.

How Does Being a Habitual Felon Affect Sentencing?

The defendant's status as a habitual felon during the jury process should not be mentioned. The defendant's attorney can request a new trial if it is mentioned. Being identified as a habitual felon could unfairly prejudice a defendant in the eyes of the jury. The habitual felon indictment will not come up if the defendant is not found guilty. However, suppose the defendant is found guilty of a felony. In that case, a second shorter trial will determine whether the definition should be considered a habitual felon.

The prosecutor needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is considered a habitual felon under North Carolina law. If the prosecutor does so, the defendant will be sentenced to a felony class level four classes higher than the underlying felony conviction. However, the defendant cannot be sentenced at a higher level than a class C felony. As a result, the defendant will face many more years of active prison time than they would have if they were not considered a habitual felon.

Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with a North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney

Have you been charged with a felony in North Carolina? have you already been convicted of multiple felonies? If so, it is crucial that you hire an aggressive, skilled criminal defense attorney. Contact the Charlotte felony defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, P.L.L.C., today to schedule a free case evaluation.