Does North Carolina Have a Three Strikes Law?
On behalf of Randall & Stump, PLLC in Criminal Defense on Tuesday, June 21, 2022
Three strikes laws significantly increase penalties for offenders with multiple convictions. These statutes are similar across states, but the details often differ regarding what qualifies as a strike and the potential consequences. Like many other states, North Carolina does have a similar three-strikes rule, but it is called the “habitual offender” law.
What Is the Three Strikes Law?
A three-strikes law makes penalties harsher as a person is convicted of more crimes. If someone has one prior conviction on their criminal record, their penalty increases moderately.
In North Carolina, a defendant is considered a “habitual felon” if they have been convicted or pleaded guilty to three felony crimes. Penalties increase at each felony conviction and depend on the specific charge that the individual faces.
North Carolina also has a misdemeanor habitual act statute that can raise the penalties to a felony level after multiple misdemeanors.
What Are the Penalties for Each Strike?
The penalties increase for each strike or felony conviction that an offender receives and depend on the severity of the charge. For example, someone convicted of two violent felonies is considered a violent habitual felon and could face a life sentence without parole, according to North Carolina’s sentencing policies and options.
North Carolina felonies range from Class A (the most severe punishments) through Class I (the least serious crimes). Penalties for each class include:
- Class A – life without parole or the death penalty
- Class B1 – 144 months in prison or life without parole
- Class B2 – 94 to 393 months in prison
- Class C – 44 to 182 months in prison
- Class D – 38 to 160 months in prison
- Class E – 15 to 63 months in prison
- Class F – 10 to 41 months in prison
- Class G – Eight to 31 months in prison
- Class H – Four to 25 months in prison
- Class I – Three to 12 months in prison
Why Are Three Strikes Laws Controversial?
Three strikes laws are controversial for multiple reasons.
It might seem sensible to punish a repeat offender more harshly; however, three-strikes laws often end up excessively punishing defendants. If a third strike is a non-violent crime, the offender may still be punished as if it were a Class C felony and receive 182 months in prison for something like shoplifting. In fact, over half of inmates sentenced under third-strike convictions are serving time for non-violent offenses.
Three strikes laws also overburden the prison system. They cause nonviolent offenders to spend years in prison due to unnecessarily long sentences imposed by antiquated laws.
Additionally, there is a racial bias built into three strikes laws. These statutes result in African Americans being incarcerated 13 times more than whites. Latinos are also disproportionately incarcerated under three strikes laws, approximately 82% more often than whites.
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer If You’re Facing a Third Strike
If you or a loved one is facing a third strike, contact one of the best criminal defense attorneys you can find as soon as possible. While you may be given a public defender, they rarely have the time or resources to help you avoid the time you might receive with a third strike.
The legal team at Randall & Stump Criminal Defense Attorneys has helped many clients avoid the harshest penalties under the North Carolina habitual offender laws.