Types of Habitual Offenses in North Carolina

Several types of habitual offenses are recognized under North Carolina law. If you have previous convictions for a specific type of crime and receive a new charge within the same category of a criminal offense, you could be sentenced more harshly. As a result, even if you were convicted of what appears to be a relatively minor offense, you could still face a severe sentence. 

A prosecutor may choose to bring habitual status offenses as additional charges to the underlying charge. When this happens, the prosecution needs to prove the underlying charge in the habitual charge separately. Working with an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you defend yourself and protect your freedom and future.

Types of Habitual Offenses

Several different types of criminal charges can be categorized as habitual. While the types of offenses vary, the basis of labeling an offense as habitual is the same: the offender must have been charged with the same type of crime multiple times. 

Habitual Felon

Under North Carolina law, anyone convicted of three prior felonies can be charged as a habitual felon for a fourth felony charge. The class of the founding charges is not relevant. When the prosecution can prove the habitual felon status, the judge can sentence the defendant four classes higher than the underlying felony, which usually adds years to the sentence. Prosecutors must prove the following criteria for the habitual felon status to apply:

  • The accused was previously convicted or pled guilty to three felony offenses in any federal or state court in the U.S. on or after July 6, 1967
  • The offense date of the second and third felonies must be after the conviction date of the previous felony
  • Only one felony committed prior to the age of 18 may be used to prove habitual felon status 
Violent Habitual Felon 

When a defendant is found to be a violent habitual felon, he or she will face a life sentence in prison. The state must prove that the defendant was previously convicted of two violent felonies, Class A through E, in any state or federal court in the U.S. on or after July 6, 1967.

Habitual Misdemeanor Assault

A defendant with two or more prior assault convictions within 15 years, whether felony or misdemeanor charges, can also face charges for habitual misdemeanor assault, a Class H felony. Simple assault is considered a misdemeanor assault in North Carolina, along with the following types of assault charges:

These types of simple assaults can be considered a "predicate offense" for a more severe felony charge. Convictions for these misdemeanor criminal offenses can become a part of a component or a more serious felony offense. The prosecution must prove that the third assault caused actual physical injury or involved pointing a gun at another individual. 

Habitual Larceny

When a defendant has been previously convicted of four larceny charges, whether felonies or misdemeanors, they can be charged with habitual larceny, punishable as a Class H felony. 

Habitual DWI

When a defendant has been convicted of three impaired driving offenses within the last ten years and is charged with a fourth offense, they can face additional charges for habitual DWI. The offensive date of each driving offense must be after the conviction day of the previous offense. The consequences of a conviction for habitual DWI include Class F Felony with a minimum active sentence of one year which cannot be suspended. The sentence will run consecutively with any other sentence. The defendant will also face permanent revocation of their driver's license and seizure and forfeiture of the vehicle. 

Contact Us to Discuss Your Case

Being convicted of a habitual offense charge can result in severe consequences that will negatively impact your life for years to come. When you are facing a habitual offense charge, it is crucial that you work with an attorney who understands how to defend you effectively and aggressively pursue the best outcome possible for your case. 

The Charlotte criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, are prepared to thoroughly investigate your case, gather evidence, and prepare an effective, aggressive legal defense strategy. We have an in-depth understanding of the North Carolina criminal process and advocate strongly for your best interests. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC, today to schedule a complimentary, no-obligation consultation with one of our habitual status defense attorneys in Charlotte, North Carolina.