In North Carolina, there is a range of misdemeanor and felony convictions.
According to the North Carolina Courts, the classification of offenses begins at the low end with Class 3 misdemeanors and increases in severity up to Class A felonies.
Penalties for misdemeanor vs. felony convictions
Misdemeanor maximum prison sentences are measured in days. Class 3 misdemeanors have a maximum punishment of just 20 days, while a person convicted of a Class A1 misdemeanor may stay in jail as long as 150 days.
Penalties for felony convictions begin at 24 months, and a person convicted of first-degree murder, a Class A felony, may receive the death penalty or life in prison without the option of parole.
The effect of prior convictions on sentencing
Per the UNC School of Government, a defendant’s prior criminal history makes a difference in his or her sentencing level. When it comes to misdemeanor offenses, there are three levels of misdemeanor prior convictions:
- Level I: No prior convictions
- Level II: Up to four prior convictions
- Level III: Five prior convictions or more
Even a traffic conviction counts toward the misdemeanor level, but infractions do not count. If a misdemeanor has been downgraded to an infraction since the conviction, the prior offense no longer affects the conviction level. All out-of-state convictions also count, even if the offense in that state is not an offense in North Carolina.
Felony convictions affect the level of sentencing for misdemeanors, as well, although they do not have any greater weight than a misdemeanor conviction in this case. However, not all misdemeanors count toward the felony prior record level. The only traffic convictions that count in felony sentencing levels are commercial impaired driving, impaired driving and misdemeanor death by vehicle.