The police and prosecutors take felony crimes seriously. If you or someone you love is suspected of a felony, seek legal help immediately. While lower-level felonies can result in a few months of imprisonment and/or probation, higher level felony offenses, such as a Class A felony, can be punishable by life in prison or by death for individuals over the age of 18. For most felony crimes, you can be imprisoned for a year, or more, and face many harsh collateral consequences following your release.
Regardless of whether you’re facing a low-level or high-level felony charge, it is important you take the charges seriously and do everything you can to try to avoid a felony conviction, starting with hiring the right lawyer. You always have the right to an attorney, and you may work with a public defender. But public defenders are often extremely overworked. Despite their best efforts, their heavy caseload makes it difficult for them to be available as much as you may like. The best thing you can do for yourself is to hire a dedicated criminal defense attorney.
Contact our felony lawyers at Randall & Stump, PLLC today to discuss your rights during a free case consultation, or to learn more about the criminal justice process in North Carolina. Contact us today at (980) 237-4579.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Felony Charges?
Yes, you need a lawyer to fight felony charges. Felony crimes, penalties, and the court process are all complicated. Even if you or a relative have experience with the criminal justice system, you probably don’t know all of the laws, rules, and customs. An experienced Charlotte felony criminal defense attorney does. When so much is on the line, you want to hire an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney, so that all defenses and weaknesses in the case will be explored, giving you the best chance of avoiding a conviction.
The Benefits of Hiring a Felony Defense Attorney Right Away
When you hire a defense attorney right away, you benefit from protecting yourself from police interrogation, being misled by the police, and other shady tactics police use to coerce people into speaking with them. The police are allowed to lie to you and have no problem misconstruing your words to fit their narrative. While all police officers don’t investigate cases this way, it is best to invoke your right to remain silent and your right to a lawyer immediately, to protect yourself from those that do use these tactics. For example, we often hear about officers telling people that hiring a lawyer makes it seem like they are guilty or have something to hide. Not only is that completely false, but it is important to point out their motive behind making the statement. Officers know that once a lawyer is brought in, their unbridled ability to trample on someone’s rights no longer exists.
Once you’ve hired a criminal defense lawyer, they should immediately dive into investigating your case. One advantage to hiring an attorney is a thorough and independent analysis of your case. Never rely on the prosecutor’s assessment of the circumstances. As your legal team, we will look over every detail and proactively seek evidence supporting your defense.
If hired immediately after being charged with a felony offense, a Charlotte defense lawyer can take steps to help improve your situation, including negotiating with the prosecutor to drop or reduce the charges. After a thorough review of the evidence, as well as the strength of the prosecution’s case against you, your lawyer may have grounds to file motions with the court, challenging things such as the probable cause to arrest you and/or the admissibility of evidence gathered during the investigation. In any case, the best-case scenario is that the charges don’t move forward at all.
If the case moves forward, we will discuss your options, the ability to negotiate down to a lesser offense, and potential defense strategies, should you choose to proceed to a jury trial. Your options depend on the facts and circumstances specific to your case. We don’t push cookie-cutter solutions. We craft what we believe to be the most effective strategy to reach the best possible outcome in your case, whether that’s an acquittal or minimal penalties upon a conviction.
Why You Should Hire Randall & Stump, PLLC
When you have been charged with a felony or are under investigation, it’s up to you to find the right Charlotte law firm for your situation. Randall & Stump, PLLC may be it. Our partners, Samuel J. Randall IV, Ryan D. Stump, and our associate, Anthony T. DelNero, have decades of combined experience on both sides of the courtroom. Samuel J. Randall is a Board Certified in State and Federal Criminal Law by the North Carolina State Bar. There are only 53 such specialists in the state. Ryan D. Stump has years of criminal defense experience, and also worked with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina, giving him insight into how federal prosecutors handle their cases. Anthony T. DelNero is a former prosecutor with the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office, during which time he prosecuted countless cases, providing him with insight on how the state evaluates and prosecutes cases, which is extremely helpful in how he defends his clients in state and federal court.
Our team has handled all types of cases, ranging from misdemeanor charges to first degree murder charges, with overwhelming success. We can help you, no matter the type or number of charges you face. To learn more about the outcomes we get, take a look at our case results. We always fight hard for the best possible results.
Jurisdiction for Felonies in North Carolina
Misdemeanor charges and felony charges are handled very differently in North Carolina. If you are charged with a misdemeanor in state court, your case goes through the district court system.
Felony charges in Charlotte may begin in district court, but after a waiver of probable cause or indictment by a grand jury, they move to superior court. Felony cases have a more complicated court process than misdemeanors in district court. If you go to trial for a felony, your case must be decided by a jury of 12 individuals, unless you waive your right to a jury trial.
The Felony Court Process
After a felony arrest, you will have an initial appearance before a judge, a bond hearing regarding the requirements for your release from jail, and a probable cause hearing in the district court. You should have an attorney for all of these initial statements. It’s important to call a defense lawyer right away.
If the judge finds there is probable cause, or you waive your right to a probable cause hearing, then the case goes to superior court. In some cases, the district attorney’s office will present your case to the grand jury before your probable cause date to try to obtain an indictment, which also moves your case to superior court. In North Carolina, grand jury proceedings are secret. If the jurors believe there is probable cause that you committed the crime, they will indict you. You do not get to defend yourself during this process, but you should still have a lawyer.
If the grand jury indicts you, your criminal charges will move forward in superior court.Once your case moves to superior court, your lawyer will receive the discovery in your case to evaluate the strength of the state’s case. It is important that your attorney evaluate and prepare your case for trial, even if there is also an attempt to negotiate a plea bargain. The decision to accept a plea or proceed to trial is for you to make, not your attorney. If you do not accept a plea deal, your lawyer will need to be prepared for trial. Throughout this process, there are various status conferences and pre-trial hearings, during which your felony lawyer will represent you.
North Carolina Felony Sentencing
If you face felony charges in Mecklenburg County, you need to be aware of the potential punishments. You can be sentenced to a significant term of incarceration in state prison. You may be required to follow numerous conditions during probation or post-release supervision. You also might have to pay significant fines, court costs, and restitution to the crime victims. If you are convicted of a sex offense, you may be required to register as a sex offender.
If you are convicted of a felony, you may receive an active, intermediate, or community punishment. Active punishment involves incarceration. Intermediate punishments can vary, including incarceration followed by special probation, substance abuse treatment, house arrest with electronic monitoring, community service, confinement at a local facility, educational or vocational programs, or satellite-based monitoring for certain sex offenders. Community punishment is any penalty other than incarceration, drug treatment court, or special probation.
Possible Prison Sentences
The potential length of active sentences for most felonies is outlined in the North Carolina Felony Punishment Chart. There are 10 classes of felonies. There are also six prior record levels: level I through VI. These levels are based on points derived from information on your criminal record.
Additionally, there are three ranges for incarceration: the mitigated range, presumptive range, and the aggravated range. In many cases, the judge will sentence a defendant in the presumptive range. If there are mitigating factors within your case, you may receive a punishment within the lower, mitigated range. But if there are aggravating factors that make your actions more egregious, you may suffer a harsher penalty within the aggravated range.
The punishment for class I felonies in North Carolina is the least harsh. The maximum duration of incarceration, which requires an extensive criminal record and aggravating factors, is up to one year. The punishment for each felony except Class A offenses varies drastically based on the facts and circumstances. For most cases where a judge orders an active sentence, you can get between four to 25 months. However, many class H felonies don’t get incarceration.
The mitigated, presumptive, and aggravated ranges for each felony class and prior record level are:
- Class I Felony: 3-8 months, 3-8 months, 4-8 months, 4-10 months, 5-11 months, 6-12 months
- Class H Felony: 4-8 months, 4-10 months, 6-12 months, 7-14 months, 9-19 months, 12-25 months
- Class G Felony: 8-16 months, 9-18 months, 10-21 months, 11-24 months, 13-37 months, 15-31 months
- Class F Felony: 10-20 months, 11-23 months, 13-27 months, 15-31 months, 17-36 months, 20-41 months
- Class E Felony: 15-31 months, 17-36 months, 20-41 months, 23-48 months, 26-55 months, 30-63 months
- Class D Felony: 38-80 months, 44-92 months, 51-105 months, 58-121 months, 67-139 months, 77-160 months
- Class C Felony: 44-92 months, 50-104 months, 58-120 months, 66-138 months, 76-159 months, 87-182 months
- Class B2 Felony: 94-196 months, 108-225 months, 124-258 months, 143-297 months, 164-342 months, 189-393 months
- Class B1 Felony: 144-300 months, 166-345 months, 190-397 months, 219-456 months, 252 months – life without parole, 190 months – life without parole.
- Class A Felony: Death or life without parole
Other than the possibility of life without parole, these are not the maximum possible sentence. These are recommended options for the judge to consider. North Carolina law also prescribes the potential maximum sentence for Class E through Class B1 felonies, which correspond to each minimum sentence.
Because North Carolina’s felony sentencing laws are complex, it’s important to talk with a defense attorney right away to understand what you are up against.
Potential Defenses for Felony Offenses
The best defense for your case depends on the facts. You should always confer with an experienced Charlotte defense lawyer about an appropriate and effective strategy.
Possible criminal defenses include:
- Lack of Intent: Many crimes require you to intend a specific outcome. Lacking intent might be enough to obtain an acquittal.
- Self Defense or Defense of Others: You are entitled to respond with proportional force if your life or other lives are in danger.
- Involuntary Intoxication: If you were drugged or impaired by intoxicants without your consent, then this is a defense for the conduct that occurred while you were impaired.
- Duress: It is a defense if you performed a crime because you were being threatened or coerced.
- Mistaken Identity: It is a defense that the police or a witness have mistaken you for the person who really committed the crime.
- Insufficient Evidence: For you to be convicted, the prosecutor must prove you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. We might argue that the prosecutor lacks enough evidence to meet this burden.
N.C. Habitual Felon Law
Under North Carolina General Statute (NCGS) §14-7.1, you may be labeled a habitual felon if you have been convicted of three felonies that were all separate crimes and occurred when you were 18 years of age or older. If you were convicted of any number of felonies before turning 18 years old, they count as one felony toward habitual felon status. Also, if you were convicted of two or more felonies related to one criminal incident, this is viewed as one felony conviction.
In North Carolina, you are not automatically considered a habitual felon, so this is an additional charge the state must seek through a grand jury. For example, if you face a fourth, separate felony, then the prosecutor asks the grand jury to indict you as a habitual felon, along with indicting you for the fourth felony offense.
During the trial for your fourth or additional felony, the jury does not discuss your habitual offender indictment. If you are found not guilty, then it is irrelevant. But if a jury convicts you, then the indictment matters. A second trial takes place to determine whether or not to classify you as a habitual felon.
If you are labeled a habitual offender, you face much harsher punishments. The judge will sentence you for a felony class four times higher than the underlying class of your initial conviction, except you cannot be sentenced above a Class C felony.
Conspiracy: Being Charged Without Committing the Crime
You may not realize this, but a conspiracy to commit a felony is a crime, too. You can be charged with an offense for just planning to commit another serious crime. Under NCGS §14-2.4, you can be charged and convicted of conspiracy to commit a felony.
The class of offense you face will be one lower than the felony you are accused of planning. If you conspired to commit a Class A or B1 felony, you would face charges for a Class B2 offense. If you conspired to commit a Class B2 felony, you would face punishments for a Class C offense. If you conspired to commit a Class I felony, then you face Class 1 misdemeanor penalties.
Can You Get a Felony Expunged?
There are few circumstances in which you can expunge a felony conviction. You may ask to expunge a first-time, non-violent felony. As of December 2017, you only have to wait 10 years until you’ve completed your punishment, including any probation, to apply for an expungement of a non-violent felony conviction. In addition to waiting the appropriate time, you also must have a pattern of good behavior from the time of your conviction to when you submit your petition.
Once you begin the expungement process and compile community service forms, affidavits, character witnesses, and reach the point when your conviction may be expunged, the District Attorney’s office is notified. The D.A. can oppose your expungement, which is why it’s important to be represented by an experienced Charlotte expungement lawyer from Randall & Stump, PLLC.