North Carolina Felony Classification Laws

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 Does North Carolina Sort Its Felonies Into Different Classes?

North Carolina has sorted its felony crimes into 10 classes, denominated as follows:

  • A: Class A felonies are the most serious crimes in North Carolina. Some examples of Class A crimes are first-degree murder and unlawful use of a weapon of mass destruction if the perpetrator has injured another person;
  • B1: Class B1 felonies are also serious crimes such as 2nd-degree murder and 1st-degree forcible rape;
  • B2: Class B 2 crimes are also quite serious, e.g., death by distribution of certain controlled substances, felony and misdemeanor death by vehicle, felony serious injury by vehicle, certain aggravated offenses, and repeat felony death by vehicle;
  • C: Class C felonies are also among the most serious, e.g., 2nd-degree forcible rape, many statutory rape offenses, and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury;
  • D: Class D is a large class of crimes covering such diverse offenses as voluntary manslaughter, 1st-degree burglary, 1st-degree arson, train robbery, and child abuse;
  • E: This is another large class of various serious offenses, including malicious throwing of corrosive acid or alkali, assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, and 2nd-degree kidnapping;
  • F: Class F includes such offenses as identity theft, extortion, incest, and bribery;
  • G: Class G includes 2nd-degree burglary, 2nd-degree arson, and breaking or entering a building that is a place of religious worship.
  • H: Class H crimes include habitual larceny, unauthorized use of an aircraft, chop shop activity, and larceny from a merchant, also known as shoplifting;
  • I: Some Class I crimes are breaking or entering into or out of railroad cars, motor vehicles, trailers, and the like, larceny of dogs, safe cracking, forgery, and the desecration of grave sites.

Class A is reserved for the most serious crimes, such as first-degree murder. Crimes in Class I are the least serious felony crimes in North Carolina, as we can see from the information above.

Do Prior Convictions Affect My Punishment?

Having prior convictions affects a person’s sentence for a new conviction in North Carolina and in all other states as well. A person’s exact sentencing is determined by many factors, including a criminal record of prior convictions. Generally, prior convictions mean that a person convicted of another offense would be sentenced more severely because of their priors.

Except for Class A felonies that have life in prison or death, a person can receive a lighter sentence without a prior record, according to the point system. And, in turn, they can receive a harsher sentence with a prior record. In North Carolina, prior convictions are used in determining a person’s sentence through a Prior Record Level system.

What Is the Prior Record Level System?

The Prior Record Level system in North Carolina involves a person accumulating points for any conviction of a criminal offense. The prior conviction is then considered to determine whether the person should be subjected to a harsher punishment. There are six levels related to the points that a person accumulates for their criminal convictions, as follows:

  • Level I: zero to one point;
  • Level II: two to five points;
  • Level III: six to nine points;
  • Level IV: 10 to 13 points;
  • Level V: 14 to 17 points; and
  • Level VI: 18 or more points.

How Many Points Is Each Felony Worth?

In North Carolina, each class of felony is worth a different number of points, as follows:

  • Class A: 10 points;
  • Class B1: 9 points;
  • Class B2, C, or D: 6 points;
  • Class E, F, or G: 4 points; and
  • Class H or I: 2 points.

So, each time a person is convicted of a felony, the person accumulates points, depending on the class of the felony. There may be cases where the person is convicted of a 2nd or subsequent felony. If this is true, all of the points they have accumulated from the past convictions on their record are added together to determine what level applies to their newest conviction.

Once a judge who must impose a sentence on a person who has been convicted of a felony has added up all the prior convictions and determined the number of points a person has, they are then able to determine that person’s prior record level, as noted above.

North Carolina then has a system of dispositional ranges. A dispositional range is the length of the sentence a court might possibly impose for any given felony conviction. A judge uses the person’s prior record level, the level of the newest felony of which they have been convicted, and any aggravating or mitigating factors. Taking all of this into account, the judge can determine a person’s dispositional range.

There are three possible dispositional ranges – the presumptive range, the aggravated range, and the mitigated range – for each class of felony of which a person has been convicted, as follows:

  • Presumptive range. The presumptive range is the standard sentence for a given felony conviction. A judge imposes a prison term within the presumptive range unless there are aggravating or mitigating circumstances;
  • Aggravated range. A judge imposes a sentence within the aggravated range if they find that there are aggravating factors. The possible aggravating factors are numerous, e.g., whether a defendant was hired to commit the crime, whether the offense was especially heinous or cruel, or whether the victim was especially vulnerable and helpless;
  • Mitigated range: If a judge finds there are mitigating factors in the case, they impose a sentence within the mitigated range. Again, there are many possible mitigating factors, such as whether the defendant is the sole support for their family, reasonably believed that their conduct was legal, or has accepted responsibility for their criminal conduct.

For example, a person whose current conviction is for a Class C felony and who has a prior record of level III could be sentenced as follows:

  • Presumptive range: 77 to 96 months;
  • Aggravated range: 96 to 120 months.

What Is the Punishment for Each Felony Class?

Again, in North Carolina, prior convictions have the effect of increasing the punishment that a person faces for a second or subsequent felony conviction, as explained above. The punishment for a person’s first felony conviction in North Carolina is as follows:

  • Class A: life in prison with or without parole or death;
  • Class B1: 192 to 240 months in prison;
  • Class B2: 125 to 157 months in prison;
  • Class C: 58 to 73 months in prison;
  • Class D: 51 to 64 months in prison;
  • Class E: 20 to 25 months in prison;
  • Class F: 13 to 16 months in prison;
  • Class G: 10 to 13 months in prison;
  • Class H: five to six months in prison; and
  • Class I: four to six months in prison.

A sentence may also be more or less than what is listed if aggravating or mitigating factors are present that would justify increasing or decreasing the length of the sentence. Of course, aggravating factors make a sentence more harsh, while mitigating factors make it more lenient.

An intermediate punishment involves supervised probation and may also include:

  • Special probation;
  • Drug treatment court program;
  • House arrest with electronic monitoring;
  • Community service;
  • A period of incarceration in a local facility;
  • Substance abuse assessment, monitoring, or treatment;
  • Enrollment in an educational or vocational skills development program;
  • Satellite-based monitoring.

A community punishment generally consists of a fine or supervised or unsupervised probation and could also include:

  • Substance abuse assessment, monitoring, or treatment;
  • Community service;
  • Satellite-based monitoring;
  • Enrollment in an educational or vocational skills development program;
  • House arrest with electronic monitoring.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With My Felony Charge in North Carolina?

If you have been charged with a felony criminal offense of any class, you need to consult a North Carolina criminal defense lawyer. LegalMatch.com can quickly connect you to an experienced lawyer who will protect your rights.

Clearly, sentencing for felony convictions in North Carolina is complicated. You need an experienced lawyer who is familiar with the state’s system to make sure your rights are protected.

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