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Criminal Sentences in North Carolina – Part 2 – Criminal History


Last week we looked at criminal sentences in North Carolina and how they are determined. Though we sketched a broad outline of how courts determine the appropriate sentence to give in any criminal case, the subject is rather complex, and it needs further explanation. This week we are going to continue our look at criminal sentences in North Carolina, but do so in the context of a specific example so that you get a better understanding of how the process works.

As with any question of criminal law, you should never make any decision about a criminal case before you speak to an attorney. Only an experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney can give you legal advice about your legal situation.  You need to speak to a lawyer as soon as you learn you have been charged with, or suspected of, any kind of crime.

Criminal Sentences and Simple Assault

To better understand criminal sentences in North Carolina we are going to look at a charge of simple assault and how criminal history plays into it. Simple assault charges can arise when, for example, someone gets into a fight or minor physical altercation that doesn’t result in anyone being seriously injured or requiring medical attention. Simple assault in North Carolina is a Class 2 misdemeanor offense. In a Class 2 misdemeanor, the maximum sentence is up to 60 days in jail and up to $1000 in fines, but less serious penalties are also possible.

Criminal History Calculation and Effect

In order to determine the criminal sentence to give, a court will have to determine the prior conviction level of the person convicted of the crime. If the person has no prior convictions, that person is considered a Level I offender. If the person has 1 to 4 prior convictions, the person is a Level II offender.  Someone with five or more convictions is a Level III offender.

For a Level I offender convicted of a Class 2 misdemeanor, the potential punishment is between 1 to 30 days of community punishment.  Community punishment means that the sentence must be suspended for a period of either supervised or unsupervised probation, and can include penalties such as fines or community service.

For someone with a Level II prior conviction level, however, the punishment is 1 to 45 days of either community punishment or intermediate punishment. Intermediate punishment is effectively supervised probation with special conditions such as house arrest or the requirement that a person serve some portion of their sentence in jail.

However, if a Level III offender is convicted of a Class 2 misdemeanor, the potential punishment is 1 to 60 days in either community, intermediate, or active punishment. Active punishment is jail.

Next week we’re going to take a look at mitigating and aggravating factors, and how they can affect criminal sentences in North Carolina.