North Carolina Decriminalizes Low Level Misdemeanors including Marijuana Possession, Driving While License Revoked & Worthless Check charges.
Jail time is now off the table for many low level misdemeanors and a $200 fine is the only punishment available in many cases. For example a charge of marijuana possession for someone with up to three prior criminal convictions is now punishable by only a fine.
Marijuana Possession Punishment is now just a $200 fine for many!
Effective for all offenses committed on or after December 1, 2013, the General Assembly of North Carolina will “decriminalize” all class three misdemeanors for offenders with no more than three prior criminal convictions. The new law provides that (unless otherwise noted) the maximum punishment for a person who is convicted of a Class 3 misdemeanor, and who has no more than three prior convictions, shall be a $200 fine.
An attempt by North Carolina to save $$$$
This is an attempt to save the state money in court operating costs, payments to court-appointed lawyers, costs to place an offender on probation, and costs to house inmates in local jail facilities. The goal in enacting this legislation is presumably to keep low-level crimes and low-recidivist criminals out of the jail where local counties generally bear the financial burden of housing them, and order that these convicted offenders pay a fine. Also, the goal is to not have to pay for the offender’s court appointed counsel, which becomes a state burden. Court appointed attorneys are mandated if a defendant cannot afford their own attorney and if it is possible that the defendant will face a jail sentence. This law negates the need for a court appointed attorney for some offenders whom are charged with a class three misdemeanor.
What Crimes Are Included?
Class 3 Misdemeanors are the lowest level of misdemeanors, and, until this new law, were punishable by up to 20 days in jail, and a fine of $200.00. Typical Class 3 misdemeanors are second degree trespass or possession of less than ½ oz of marijuana. These are crimes for which judges typically would not punish with jail time, but judges often do place offenders on probation upon conviction for these types of crimes. Probation costs money to operate as well, and probation officers are often overwhelmed with a caseload full of much more serious offenders to worry about. If an offender violates probation he or she may be punished with jail time.
How does it work?
Starting soon for cases committed after December 1, 2013 when a defendant goes to a North Carolina court for his first appearance and asks for a court appointed attorney (assuming a class 3 misdemeanor) the Court will have to make a determination of that defendant’s prior record before knowing if he or she is eligible for a court appointed lawyer.
Paying a $200 fine can haunt you for the rest of your life!
The problem with this change in the law is that a conviction for a class three misdemeanor can mean more than simply the $200 fine. Any conviction will stay on your criminal record for a lifetime unless it is expunged and most people will not qualify for an expungement. A criminal conviction on your record (even for just a class three misdemeanor) can have very serious consequences including loss of employment opportunities, loss of educational opportunities, loss of other benefits and rights. I’ve had countless people who have called my office because a prior criminal conviction is keeping them from getting a good job. These effects are life-long effects and can do serious damage to someone’s earning capacity.
Call Raleigh Criminal Defense Lawyer Wiley Nickel for a Free Consultation
If you find yourself charged with a class three misdemeanor in North Carolina, such as second degree trespass, DWLR, worthless check or possession of less than ½ oz of marijuana, you should still seek the advice of a criminal defense lawyer. Simply pleading guilty and paying a $200 fine can and will have serious effects on you in the years ahead The effect on your criminal record, potential for work or school, and other considerations, are important to understand. Most importantly, if you are already on probation or have other pending criminal matters you should always consult with an attorney before entering any plea in court. A $200 fine may feel like just a slap on the wrist today, but the consequences of a conviction will affect you for the rest of your life.
The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel can help!
If you are charged with any crime, please call the Law Offices of Wiley Nickel, PLLC today for a free consultation at 919-585-1486. We handle criminal cases in Wake County North Carolina and are located in Cary, NC.