A misdemeanor crime is a criminal offense considered to be more serious than a citation, but less serious than felony charges. Misdemeanor crimes are less serious to moderate crimes associated with less serious punishments.
Most states have determined that the distinguishing feature of a misdemeanor is that the crime is generally punishable by a sentence of one year maximum in a county jail facility. This sentence is not to be served in a state prison facility, as that is generally reserved for punishing felony crimes.
There are a broad range of crimes that are classified as misdemeanors. Some common examples include, but may not be limited to:
- Traffic offenses, such as DUI or drunk driving;
- Assault and battery and other relatively minor offenses resulting in bodily harm;
- Theft, larceny, and other similar crimes involving property;
- Possession of a controlled substance and various other drug crimes;
- Perjury crimes;
- Obscenity and other related crimes; and
- Gun possession violations.
It is important to note that state laws vary widely in terms of which specific crimes are classified as misdemeanors. Some states also have a category of crimes called “wobblers.” These are crimes that can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the circumstances of the case.
Generally speaking, a felony crime can be any criminal offense that results in a prison sentence of one year or longer. Felony crimes often involve an element of violence, and as such they are considered to be especially harmful or dangerous to society. Specific felony crimes include some of the most serious types of crimes that a person can commit, such as first-degree murder and arson.
To simplify, felony crimes are generally more serious than crimes that could be considered misdemeanors. Felonies also tend to involve an act of violence, while most misdemeanor crimes do not. Another notable difference between the two is the form of punishment that a convicted person receives. Again, because felony crimes are considered to be more severe than misdemeanor offenses, their punishments are as well.
Does North Carolina Have Subcategories Classifications For Misdemeanor Crimes?
Some specific examples of crimes that are generally categorized as misdemeanors include, but may not be limited to:
- Petty theft;
- Simple battery or assault;
- Evading police;
- Cyber bullying;
- Criminal mischief;
- Possession of a controlled substance; and
- Interference with child custody.
Most states have a classification system identifying how to determine whether a crime falls under a misdemeanor offense, and what the resulting sentence should be. An example of this would be how a state may divide misdemeanor crimes into levels, such as Class 1 or A, 2 or B, 3 or C, and so on. States may also categorize the misdemeanor by the amount of damage or injury caused by the crime. An example of this would be how Class A misdemeanors are considered to be more serious than a Class D.
Most states stop classifying misdemeanors at Class C, meaning all others would be considered unclassified misdemeanors. Unclassified misdemeanors do not fit neatly into any of the existing categories. Some states may have a separate category called “Unclassified Misdemeanors,” generally including crimes that are considered to be too unique. They may also involve new legal issues, or issues that are not especially serious in nature.
Some common examples of unclassified misdemeanors include:
- Minor gambling crimes;
- Littering; and
- Various traffic offenses.
Misdemeanor assault can also become a felony charge when the crime involves an aggravating factor. An example of this would be if the assault was committed with the use of a deadly weapon, or if the defendant was a repeat offender. Another example would be if the assault victim was a child or minor.
North Carolina divides misdemeanor crimes into four different categories:
- 2; and
How Are North Carolina Misdemeanor Crimes Classified? How Are They Punished?
North Carolina has determined that A1 misdemeanors are the most serious of all misdemeanors in the state. Some examples of A1 misdemeanors include, but may not be limited to:
- Assault on a child who is under twelve years of age;
- The violation of a valid protective order; and
- Assault by pointing a gun at another person.
The penalty for a first A1 is a maximum of 150 days spent in jail, as well as a fine which is at the judge’s discretion.
Class 1 misdemeanors are penalized with up to 120 days spent in jail, as well as a discretionary fine, similar to an A1 misdemeanor. North Carolina Class 1 misdemeanors include, but may not be limited to:
- Possession of drug paraphernalia;
- Driving with a revoked license, if your driver’s license was revoked because of DWI charges;
- Possession of stolen goods;
- Damaging property, including real or personal; and
- Making threats.
Class 2 misdemeanors are punished by a maximum of sixty days in jail, as well as a maximum fine of $1,000. These misdemeanors include:
- Simple assault;
- Disorderly conduct;
- Resisting a police officer; and
- Carrying a concealed weapon.
Class 3 is considered to be the least serious of North Carolina misdemeanor crimes. This class of misdemeanor is penalized with up to twenty days spent in jail, as well as $200 fine. Some examples of Class 3 misdemeanors include:
- Cannabis possession;
- Concealing goods in a store;
- Driving with license revoked;
- Second degree trespassing; and
- Violations of various city codes.
Punishment in North Carolina can be categorized as active punishment and intermediate punishment. Active punishment for a misdemeanor includes jail time, while intermediate punishment consists of supervised probation. Intermediate punishment may also include:
- Special probation;
- House arrest;
- Community service;
- Substance abuse assessment, monitoring, or treatment, which could include treatment through a court-ordered program; and/or
- Enrollment in a vocational skills development program, or some other type of educational program.
Another punishment may be community punishment. This generally consists of a fine or probation, either supervised or unsupervised. It could also include any of the aforementioned punishments for an intermediate punishment; however, this would be with the exception of special probation, jail time, and court-ordered drug treatment.
What About Prior Convictions?
In North Carolina, you will likely receive a harsher punishment based on how many convictions you have. There are three different levels of punishment based on the number of prior convictions:
- Level I: there are no prior convictions.
- Level II: you have one to four prior convictions.
- Level III: you have five or more prior convictions.
It is important to note that the punishments for Level Two and Level Three are generally harsher than Level One, both in terms of the length of the sentence and the type of punishment. In contrast to Level One, in which many of the punishments consist only of community punishment, Levels Two and Three frequently result in an intermediate or an active punishment.
Do I Need a Lawyer For North Carolina Misdemeanors?
If you are in North Carolina and are being charged with a misdemeanor crime, you should consult with an experienced North Carolina criminal defense lawyer. Because much of criminal law varies by state, including penalties, it is advised that you work with a local lawyer so that you receive the most relevant legal advice.
An experienced and local criminal defense attorney can help determine whether any legal defenses are available to you based on the specifics of your case. Finally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed, while protecting your rights.