What are the Penalties for Felonies in North Carolina?

North Carolina has strict laws regarding sentencing for felony convictions. In addition to being strict, these laws can be challenging to understand, especially if this is your first time involved with the justice system. If you have been trying to determine what type of penalty you may face if you are convicted, you may have been frustrated.

The reason for the seemingly confusing sentencing process is that felonies in North Carolina are punished on a case-by-case basis. The criminal code does have recommended sentences, but in most cases, judges have the discretion to order a sentence based on many different factors. Understanding the sentencing process in North Carolina and how felonies are classified can help you better understand the charges you are facing.

Understanding Felony Charges in North Carolina

It is also essential to know that North Carolina does not have a statute of limitations on felony charges. Regardless of when the alleged felony was committed and the defendant was arrested, they can still face criminal charges. In other words, no matter how long ago a person committed the felony, a prosecutor can always decide to bring criminal charges against you. This is a different rule than for North Carolina misdemeanors which have a two-year statute of limitations.

How Does North Carolina Classify Felonies?

The North Carolina criminal code classifies colonies into ten different categories. Class A felonies are the most serious types of felonies, and class I felonies are the least serious. Class B felonies are divided into two sub-classes: B1 and B2. The classification of the felony you have been charged with will directly impact the penalties you will face if you are convicted.

For example, Class A felonies are considered the most serious types of criminal offenses, such as first-degree murder. these felonies carry a prison sentence of life without parole and can include a death sentence. Class B1 felonies include first-degree sexual offenses, including first-degree rape and statutory rape. These penalties carry a maximum prison sentence of life without parole. On the other side of the spectrum, Class G felonies include juvenile drug charges and common law robbery. These types of felonies include a maximum prison sentence of 47 months.

The Sentencing Process for Felonies in North Carolina

There are three categories of felony punishments in North Carolina — active, intermediate, and community. Active punishment means the defendant is allowed to spend time in prison for the duration the statute recommends for the specific offense involved. The defendant could spend time in a local or state prison. With an intermediate punishment, the defendant is placed on supervised probation. Additionally, they will need to meet one or more of the following requirements:

  • Drug treatment court
  • Overnight stays in residential centers under the supervision
  • Intense daily monitoring
  • House arrest with electronic monitoring
  • A split sentence including active jail time followed by supervised probation

Finally, community punishment involves a judge deciding on the defendant's punishment. Community punishment may include probation, restitution, fines, community service, substance abuse treatment, or a combination of one or more.

The Process of Determining Penalties

The first step in determining the penalty to impose is for the judge to consider the class of felony committed and the prior conviction level of the defendant. A point system is used to determine the prior conviction level. When the defendant has a previous conviction on their record, points will be added to the record. The more severe the penalty, the more points will be added. For example, Class A felonies are the most serious category of felonies. When a defendant is convicted of a Class A felony, 10 points will be added to his or her record.

In addition to the class of felony in the prior conviction level, judges will also consider mitigating and aggravating factors. Aggregating factors can hurt the defendant in terms of sentencing. An example of an aggravating factor that could lead to a harsher sentence would be that the defendant committed the alleged felony while on parole. Mitigating factors show that the defendant has good character and a good reputation in the community and can help a defendant receive a lighter sentence.

Discuss Your Case with a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney

As you can see, the sentencing process in felony cases is complex. Judges have significant discretion on the severity of the penalties they impose. Hiring an experienced, aggressive, trial-ready attorney to represent you can make a substantial difference in the outcome of your case. Do not delay. Contact the criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, today to schedule your free case evaluation.