In North Carolina, felonies are generally punished under the North Carolina Felony Sentencing guidelines. These guidelines center around class of crime, prior conviction points, and aggravated factors. There are some cases however where additional statutes, enhancements, or special sentencing can apply.
Some of those examples are drug trafficking, habitual felon, habitual breaking and entering, and armed habitual felon. In this blog, we will discuss armed habitual felon status. Like all of our blogs, this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and not as a substitute for the advice and counsel of a criminal defense attorney.
What is an Armed Habitual Felon?
Armed habitual felon is a statutory provision under North Carolina General Statute 14-7.41. This is a status offense rather than an individual crime, meaning that it requires both a current felony charge and some proof specific past behavior. In order for there to be a finding that someone is an armed habitual felon, there must be a showing that the person has at least one prior conviction of a firearm related offense in any state or federal court in the United States.
It is up to the state of North Carolina to apply this status or not. The prosecutor in the case has discretion over whether or not to move forward with this enhancement, it is not mandatory.
Process of being charged as an Armed Habitual Felon
A defendant must be charged with a principle firearm related offense, and have at least one prior conviction of a firearm related offense. In the district attorney’s discretion, the defendant may be charged with the status.
There must be separate indictments for both the principle charge and the armed habitual felon status. The indictment must indicate what the prior felony conviction was, when the defendant was convicted of it, and what court it was completed in.
At trial, the defendant is initially only tried for the principle offense and the jury cannot know about the status unless and until the defendant is found guilty of the principle offense. At that point there will be second phase of the trial to determine whether or not the state has proven the status.
Consequences of being an Armed Habitual Felon
Someone who is convicted as an Armed Habitual Felon is punished as a class C offender and must serve a minimum term of imprisonment of at least 120 months. The court may not suspend the sentence and may not place the defendant on probation.