A misdemeanor carries a less serious punishment than a felony. It is a type of crime that law enforcement wants to dissuade you from committing, though it does not call for lengthy or harsh punishment, similar to the penalties for felony convictions. Misdemeanor charges should not be ignored or taken lightly because the collateral consequences of a conviction can be just as serious as those associated with a felony conviction. 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 types of criminal charges, including all misdemeanor offenses in North Carolina. To schedule a free and confidential consultation for your case during which you will learn more about the North Carolina criminal justice process, call us today at , or reach out through our online form.
What Court Has Jurisdiction Over Misdemeanor Offenses In North Carolina?
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor in North Carolina, then your case typically goes through the district court. District court is a courtroom where judge only who presides over case. Judge and jury in case. Trier of fact. That’s where all misdemeanors start. No jury initially. You must appear here.
Administrative courtrooms are where misdemeanor cases begin. All traffic offenses are handled in this setting, and are heard by a magistrate judge. Here, an attorney can represent you. If you got arrested for simple possession – a first-time offense – then your misdemeanor lawyer can go administrative court on your behalf through a waiver of appearance. In this situation, you would not have to appear in court.
When your attorney goes to court on your behalf, they can negotiate a deal with the prosecutor in which you will adhere to a certain agreement and terms. Informal deferred prosecution is also possible in this situation. This is reserved for low-level misdemeanors, and typically does not require a written agreement with the court. If your lawyer is able to secure informal deferred prosecution, you may be required to treatment, community service, and other terms.
If a deal or informal deferred prosecution is not secured (because you have a record or you’re considered likely to commit another offense), then your case may move to district court. Domestic violence immediately go to district court. If you are found guilty in this setting, then you can appeal to superior court.
The Court Process
If you are arrested for a misdemeanor offense, you can expect to go through a specific court process in district court. After your arrest, you will be booked into jail. Eventually, you will appear before a magistrate who will set the terms – including your release via a secured or unsecured bond – and require you to sign a promise that indicates your intention to pay that bond and show up at any future court appearances.
After an initial hearing at which the charges against you are read, you will enter a plea. If you have yet to retain the counsel of 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 is not possible, your attorney can work with the prosecutor to try and come to an agreement to resolve your case in a way that is favorable to you. If an agreement cannot be reached, your case will go to trial.
Before and during your trial, your lawyer will work with you to devise the strongest defense possible. If the judge finds you not guilty after the trial, then you are free to go. If you are found guilty, then they will decide your sentence right away. If you are found guilty, you have the automatic right to appeal in North Carolina Superior Court, but you must take action quickly, as there is a time limit of 10 days for these appeals.
To learn more about the misdemeanor court process in NC and which hearings you may or may not have to appear at during your case, contact a misdemeanor lawyer at our firm today. At Randall & Stump, PLLC, we will work hard for you to obtain a plea deal, deferred prosecution, or conditional discharge. If going to trial is necessary, we will negotiate in the courtroom with the prosecutor, fighting for you to obtain the best possible outcome in your case.
Types of Misdemeanor Punishments
There are active, intermediate, or community punishments for misdemeanor convictions in North Carolina. For a more serious misdemeanor offense, a judge may have discretion in sentencing you to community, intermediate, or active punishment. An 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. Instead, it includes unsupervised or supervised probation, or only a fine. A judge will sentence you to community punishment for a: level I class 3 misdemeanor.
For these crimes, when you work with an experienced misdemeanor lawyer, 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 sentencing chart, also referred to as a punishment grid. On the side of the chart is the class of the misdemeanor: class A1, class 1, class 2, or class 3. On 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. Depending on your prior criminal history and the facts of your case, you face the following term of punishment for misdemeanors in NC:
- Class A1 Misdemeanor – One-150 days
- Class 1 Misdemeanor – One-120 days
- Class 2 Misdemeanor – One-60 days
- Class 3 Misdemeanor – One-20 days
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 is found guilty of a class 3 misdemeanor, shall consist only of community punishment and/or a fine.
Expungement of a Misdemeanor
There are no limits to filing for an expungement of a misdemeanor conviction. You should speak with an attorney about this option and your potential eligibility. If you are eligible for an expungement, a misdemeanor lawyer will guide you through the filing and court process of expunging your criminal record.
In North Carolina, you may seek an expungement for any misdemeanor charges that have been dismissed, or for which you have been found not guilty. There is no mandatory waiting period for expungements in these situations. If you were found guilty of a misdemeanor, however, then you need to wait five years before seeking an expungement. 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.
If you believe you are eligible for expungement, contact an attorney right away.