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Photo of Joshua Nielsen
Photo of Joshua Nielsen

How North Carolina charges criminal offenses

On Behalf of | Apr 11, 2023 | criminal defense

North Carolina divides charges into two categories: misdemeanors and felonies. The charges also fall into a sub-category of these divisions depending on the crime committed.

The state established sentencing guidelines for these divisions, though a judge has the liberty to adjust the final sentence. By having your charges downgraded, you can avoid a serious penalty and reduce the impact on your criminal record.

The charges you could face

Violations do not receive the same criminal penalties as misdemeanors or felonies, and these typically occur with minor traffic incidents. A fine is often the only consequence of these infractions. More serious incidents become misdemeanors, though a number of other charges also fall into this category.

A misdemeanor is a minor crime that typically requires a court appearance and ends in active, intermediate or community punishments. There are four classes of misdemeanors and three levels of convictions. Regardless of any jail time assigned, misdemeanors become a part of your criminal record.

Felonies are more serious than misdemeanors, with convictions having the harshest penalties and sentences. There are 10 classes of felonies with six different levels of convictions based on prior offenses.

The benefits of a downgraded charge

When facing criminal charges, the most desired outcome is for the prosecutor to drop the charges or have the judge dismiss the case. However, having charges downgraded to a lesser offense can spare you from lengthy jail time, significant fines, the loss of certain rights and employment or education barriers.

Felony to misdemeanor downgrades can occur through a plea bargain, a mistake in the original charges or good behavior when on probation. Having your charge downgraded is a big deal and one that has a significant impact on your future.