A misdemeanor is a type of crime that law enforcement wants to dissuade you from committing, but it doesn’t necessarily call for a lengthy jail sentence or otherwise harsh punishment, often associated with felony charges. While not as punitive as felonies, misdemeanor charges should not be ignored or taken lightly. The collateral consequences of a conviction can be just as serious as those associated with a felony conviction. Many people do not take misdemeanor charges seriously until it is too late and they find out the hard way that there is nothing casual about a jail sentence and a permanent criminal record.
You should work with a skilled criminal defense lawyer to fight any misdemeanor charges you may be facing. At Randall & Stump, PLLC, we handle all criminal charges, including all misdemeanor offenses in North Carolina. To schedule a free and confidential consultation during which you will learn more about the North Carolina criminal justice process, call us today at (980) 237-4579 or reach out through our online form.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Misdemeanor?
We see far too many defendants try to go without a lawyer only to find themselves at a serious disadvantage. Though a misdemeanor might seem like a minor legal matter, it isn’t. The prosecutor and the courts take misdemeanors seriously. So do potential employers, schools, training programs, landlords, and financial institutions. A misdemeanor on your record could be a serious hurdle in gaining an education, building a career, and establishing a home.
We highly recommend you hire an experienced misdemeanor criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. The earlier you have an attorney working on your case, the better. When we’re called right away, we can get started on pursuing the best possible outcome. If you wait, you might make your situation worse. In some cases, if we are hired too late in the process, it becomes impossible to get an outcome we could have achieved with earlier planning and intervention, ultimately leading us to decline taking the case.
Why You Should Hire a Misdemeanor Defense Lawyer
Do you know the best possible outcome for your case? Probably not. A lawyer’s purpose is to scrutinize the facts and offer an opinion based on North Carolina law and the typical outcomes in similar cases in Mecklenburg County. Without that information, you might not pursue the best strategy, whether that’s dismissal, informal deferred prosecution, a plea deal, or trial.
Why You Should Hire Us
There are a lot of lawyers out there. You want to find a law firm with the right combination of experience, passion, and results. Our partners and associates have decades of experience handling state and federal cases, including all types of misdemeanor charges. We even have an attorney who is Board Certified in Federal and State Criminal Law – a distinction only 53 attorneys in the state can claim.
Our case results also set us apart from the rest. We routinely get misdemeanor charges dropped, reduced, or dismissed. Though we can’t guarantee a particular outcome to any case, we can promise to put forth our full effort to achieve the best possible results in your case.
Misdemeanor Courts in NC
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor in Charlotte, NC, then your case typically goes through the district court. District court is a courtroom where a judge presides over cases during all phases of the case, including trial. In other words, the judge, not a jury, decides whether you are guilty or innocent.. In general, you must appear at the district court, along with your misdemeanor attorney.
In Mecklenburg County, administrative courtrooms are where misdemeanor cases begin, with the exception of domestic violence cases, which immediately go to a district court trial courtroom. All traffic violations are handled in administrative court and are often heard by a magistrate judge.
A misdemeanor criminal defense attorney can and should represent you to pursue the best possible outcome. If you face a first-time possession charge or another misdemeanor offense, then your lawyer can go to the administrative court on your behalf through a waiver of appearance. In many minor misdemeanor cases, your attorney can appear on your behalf, saving you the headache of having to go to court.
The Misdemeanor Court Process
If you are arrested, rather than served a criminal summons, you will be processed and booked into the jail just as you would for a felony charge. Eventually, you will appear before a magistrate who will set the terms of your release, including through a secured or unsecured bond. You will require you to sign a promise that shows your intention to pay that bond and come to your future court appearances.
If you have yet to hire a misdemeanor lawyer after your release by the magistrate, call Randall & Stump, PLLC right away. Your criminal defense attorney will review your situation and attempt to have your charges dismissed. If that isn’t possible, your attorney can work with the prosecutor to try and come to an agreement to resolve your case in a favorable way, such as having the charges reduced or obtaining a plea deal. If an agreement can’t be reached, your case goes to trial.
Before and during your trial, your misdemeanor defense lawyer will work with you to devise the strongest defense possible. If the judge finds you not guilty after the trial, which is known as an acquittal, you’re free to go. If the judge finds you guilty, they will decide your sentence right away.
If you’re convicted, you have the automatic right to appeal to the North Carolina Superior Court. But you must act quickly because there is a time limit of 10 days for these appeals.
How a Lawyer Helps in Misdemeanor Court
If there are no grounds to request your case be dismissed, when your misdemeanor defense lawyer goes to court on your behalf, they can negotiate a deal with the prosecutor. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, along with your criminal record, your lawyer may be able to negotiate a deferred prosecution or a reduction to lesser charges.
An informal deferred prosecution may also possible in this situation. An informal deferred prosecution is reserved for low-level misdemeanors and typically does not require a written agreement with the court. If your defense attorney can secure informal deferred prosecution, you may be required to complete alcohol or drug addiction treatment, community service, and other terms requested by the prosecutor.
If a deal or informal deferred prosecution is not secured, for instance, because you have a record or you’re considered likely to commit another offense, then your case may move to a trial courtroom and scheduled for trial.
Types of Misdemeanor Punishments
There are active, intermediate, or community punishments for misdemeanor convictions in North Carolina, including Mecklenburg County. For a more serious misdemeanor offense, a judge may exercise their discretion by imposing additional terms when handing down their sentence.
Active punishment is one that involves incarceration.
Intermediate punishment involves supervised probation with at least one of the following additional conditions:
- Special probation
- Drug treatment court
- House arrest with electronic monitoring
- Community service
- Substance abuse treatment, monitoring, or assessment
- Educational or vocational skills development program
- Satellite-based monitoring
Community punishment does not involve jail time or intermediate punishment. Instead, it includes unsupervised or supervised probation or only a fine. A judge will sentence you to community punishment for a Class 3, Level 1 misdemeanor. When you work with an experienced misdemeanor lawyer for these crimes, you have a greater likelihood of avoiding time in jail.
Length of a Misdemeanor Punishment
If you’re convicted of a misdemeanor, then the potential term of incarceration is dictated by the NC Misdemeanor Punishment Chart. On the side of the chart is the class of the misdemeanor: Class A1, Class 1, Class 2, or Class 3. The top of the chart is your prior conviction level. If this is a first offense misdemeanor, your prior record level is Level I. If you have between one and four previous convictions, you are in Level II. If you have five or more previous criminal convictions, you are in Level III.
For each misdemeanor class and prior record level, there is a range of incarceration a judge can sentence you to:
- Class A1 Misdemeanor: Between 1-60 days C/I/A, 1-75 days C/I/A, or 1-150 days C/I/A
- Class 1 Misdemeanor: Between 1-45 days C, 1-45 days C/I/A, or 1-120 days C/I/A
- Class 2 Misdemeanor: Between 1-30 days C, 1-45 days C/I, or 1-60 days C/I/A
- Class 3 Misdemeanor: Between 1-10 days C, 1-15 days C, 1-15 days C/I, or 1-20 days C/I/A
It is important to note that unless the statute for a specific offense says otherwise, the punishment for a person who has no more than three prior convictions and is found guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor is only a community punishment or a fine.
Can You Expunge a Misdemeanor?
Yes, it’s possible to expunge misdemeanors that have been dismissed or where you were found not guilty at trial, as well as certain non-violent misdemeanor convictions. In North Carolina, you may seek an expungement for any misdemeanor charges that were dismissed or for which you were found not guilty. There is no mandatory waiting period for expungements in these situations. If you were found guilty of, or pled guilty to,a non-violent misdemeanor, you need to wait five years before seeking an expungement.
If you are seeking an expungement for a misdemeanor conviction, you should speak with an expungement lawyer in Charlotte about this option and your potential eligibility. Once you are eligible to petition for an expungement, you and your lawyer should collect character witnesses, maintain good behavior, and inform the district attorney of your intentions. Despite following the proper procedures of petitioning for expungement, the DA can oppose the application.