North Carolina organizes misdemeanors into four categories: Class AI misdemeanors are the most serious type, while Classes 1, 2, and 3 represent lesser offenses. Class 3 offenses are the least serious type of misdemeanor crime.
For information on felonies, see North Carolina Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences.
Sentence Range for Each Level
For a court to determine the appropriate sentence for someone convicted of a misdemeanor North Carolina, it must take into consideration both the class of misdemeanor and the person’s prior conviction level. Additionally, the judge can specify what type of "time" the defendant will do--from incarceration to community service.
Class of misdemeanor
For each class of misdemeanor, a court can impose a range of sentences. Each range is further divided into three sets, which correspond to the defendant’s prior conviction level, as explained just below.
- Class A1: 1 to 150 days of active, intermediate, or community punishment
- Class 1: 1 to 120 days of active, intermediate, or community punishment
- Class 2: 1 to 60 days of active, intermediate, or community punishment
- Class 3: 1 to 20 days of days of active, intermediate, or community punishment
Prior conviction level
Everyone convicted of a misdemeanor offense in North Carolina is categorized into one of three prior conviction levels. Those in Level I have not been previously convicted of a crime, while those in Level III have been convicted of 5 or more crimes. The prior conviction level is one of the two key factors a court will use to determine an appropriate sentence. (North Carolina General Statutes section 15A?1340.21.)
- Level I: no previous convictions
- Level II: 1 – 4 previous convictions
- Level III: 5 or more previous conviction.
Once a court has determined someone's prior conviction level, it can impose a sentence that falls within the range of penalties for that class and level. In other words, each class of misdemeanor has three subclasses, which correspond the the three prior conviction levels.
For example, someone who has a Level I prior conviction level and who has committed a Class 2 misdemeanor faces 1 to 30 days of community punishment. On the other hand, someone convicted of the same class of misdemeanor but who has a Level III prior conviction level faces 1 to 60 days of either community, intermediate, or active punishment at the court’s discretion.
The court can impose any sentence within the outlined range. So, someone convicted of a Class 2 misdemeanor with a Level I prior conviction level might receive a sentence of a single day of community punishment, or as much as 30 days of community punishment as the court deems appropriate. (North Carolina General Statutes section15A?1340.23)
Active, intermediate, and community punishments
In addition to specifying the length of the sentence, North Carolina provides for three ways that these sentences may be served. Those convicted of misdemeanors can be sentenced to active, intermediate, or community punishment. Active punishments are jail sentences, while intermediates and community punishments allow the judges to impose alternate penalties.
For example, someone sentenced to an intermediate punishment might have to serve a period of house arrest or spend time in a drug treatment facility, while someone sentenced to community punishment might have to serve probation, participate in educational or vocational skills program, or serve community service.
For any misdemeanor sentence that requires or allows for incarceration, the court can also sentence someone to pay a fine. 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
Courts can order a fine in addition to any community, intermediate, or active punishment. If any sentence authorizes only community punishment, the court can sentence a person to pay a fine instead of serve the community punishment.
Examples of Crimes in Each Level
The following list of offenses represents onlya small sample of all the misdemeanor crimes in North Carolina.
- Battery on an unborn child
- Simple assault or battery upon a person with disabilities
- Simple assault or battery
- Breaking into a coin or currency operated machine
- Taking horses, mules, or dogs for temporary purposes
- Removal of shopping cart from shopping premises
- Misuse of 911 system
Find a Lawyer
Even though many North Carolina misdemeanors do not have significant jail sentences or large fines associated with them, it is always in your best interest to speak to a local criminal defense lawyer if you’re ever charged with or investigated for a crime. The only people qualified to give you legal advice are attorneys who have represented clients in North Carolina courts in your area and who have experience negotiating with local prosecutors and arguing in front of local judges. You need to talk to a local attorney as soon as possible so you can ensure you preserve your legal rights.