Misdemeanor Sentencing in North Carolina misdemeanor sentencing in North Carolina

Misdemeanor sentencing in North Carolina is governed by  NCGS 15A-1340.23. There are two classes of crime, felony and misdemeanor. This blog focuses only on misdemeanor sentencing in North Carolina.

There are four categories of misdemeanors used in misdemeanor sentencing in North Carolina: (1) Class A1, which includes the most serious type misdemeanor crimes; (2) Class 1; (3) Class 2; and (4) Class 3, which include the least serious type of misdemeanor crimes.

Being charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor during a period of probation will not affect probation.

What is the maximum amount of jail time that a person can face for each class?

Note that the maximum amount of jail time that a person could face for each class of misdemeanor depends upon that person’s prior record level (see below). The maximum amount of jail time that any person could face is as follows:

  • Class A1 misdemeanor: up to 150 days in jail
  • Class 1 misdemeanor: up to 120 days in jail
  • Class 2 misdemeanor: up to 60 days in jail
  • Class 3 misdemeanor: up to 20 days in jail

*A person cannot face jail time for a Class 3 or Class 2 misdemeanor unless they are a prior record level 3.*

*For individuals with NO PRIOR CONVICTIONS, no jail time can be given for any misdemeanor conviction besides a Class A1 conviction.*

What are the different classes of Misdemeanors and what do they mean?

For each class of misdemeanor, a court can impose a range of sentences. Each range is further divided into three sets of punishment options, “Community”, “Intermediate”, and “Active”, which correspond to the criminal defendant’s prior conviction level, as explained in the chart below.

What Fines are Associated with my Misdemeanor?

Any judgment that includes a sentence of imprisonment may also include a fine. If a community punishment is authorized, the judgment may consist of a fine only. Unless otherwise specified under a specific law, courts can impose up to the following maximum fines for misdemeanors:

Class A1: as much of the court deems appropriate
Class 1: as much as the court deems appropriate
Class 2: up to $1,000
Class 3: up to $200

Prior Record Levels:

As mentioned on the chart above, a person is assigned a prior record Level I if they have no prior criminal convictions, a Level II for 1-4 prior criminal convictions, and Level III for 5 or more prior criminal convictions.

A person with three or fewer prior convictions can face a FINE ONLY for conviction of a Class 3 misdemeanor, unless the specific crime that they are convicted of statutorily provides otherwise. This means that a judge can never sentence such an individual to community service, probation, or any other punishment unless otherwise provided for a specific offense.

Qualifying Prior Criminal Convictions

  • Only one prior criminal conviction from a single session (generally, one day) of district court, or in a single week of superior court or court in another jurisdiction. For example, if someone is convicted of three charges in one session of district court, this counts as one prior conviction for purposes of prior conviction level
  • Convictions in superior court, regardless of a pending appeal to the appellate division
  • A prayer for judgment continued (PJC)
  • A conviction resulting in a 90-96 probation, if it has not yet been dismissed
  • Qualifying convictions count, regardless of when they arose (e.g., a 20-year-old conviction still counts)

The following prior convictions do not count towards your prior conviction level:

  • Infractions (e.g., speeding)
  • Contempt
  • Juvenile adjudications
  • District court convictions on appeal, or for which the time for appeal to superior court has not yet expired

What do Active, Intermediate, and Community Punishments mean?

Punishment for misdemeanor convictions may be active, intermediate, or community punishment. Active punishments are jail sentences, while intermediate and community punishments allow the judges to impose alternate penalties.

Intermediate punishment is a sentence that places an offender on supervised probation. It may include drug treatment court, special probation, and one or more of the following conditions:

(1) House arrest with electronic monitoring;
(2) Perform community service and pay the fee prescribed by law for this supervision;
(3) Submission to a period or periods of confinement in a local confinement facility for a total of no more than six days per month during any three separate months during the period of       probation. The six days per month confinement provided for in this subdivision may only be       imposed as two-day or three-day consecutive periods;
(4) Substance abuse assessment, monitoring, or treatment;
(5) Participation in an educational or vocational skills development program, including an           evidence-based program; or
(6) Submission to satellite-based monitoring.

Community punishment is a sentence that does not include an active punishment or assignment to a drug treatment court, or special probation. It may consist of a fine only or include any one or more of the conditions listed above under intermediate punishment. Community punishment could also consist of a fine only, which is the lowest punishment, or a combination of punishments.

If you have been charged with a crime in North Carolina or South Carolina or have questions about misdemeanor sentencing in North Carolina, please feel free to contact us to speak with a criminal defense attorney.