An Explanation of Misdemeanor Charges in North Carolina

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There are two main classes of crimes in North Carolina: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are divided into four different categories (A1, 1, 2, and 3), depending on the seriousness of the offense. The final outcome in any particular case depends on the individual facts of the case, the defendant’s criminal record, and any agreements that the defendant enters into with the district attorney’s office.  

To make things even more confusing we have infractions which do not have jail time (i.e. some driving charges) and we treat drunk driving (DWI) as its own totally separate system on punishment system.

Class 3 Misdemeanor

A Class 3 misdemeanor, the least serious type of misdemeanor, carries a maximum penalty of twenty days in jail and a $200 fine. Class 3 misdemeanors include simple possession of marijuana, concealing goods in a store, DWLR, 2nd degree trespass and city code violations.  Now if you have less than four prior convictions on your record you can only be charged with a fine for a class 3 misdemeanor – so jail time and probation Is officially off the table for many in North Carolina.

Class 2 Misdemeanor

A Class 2 misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of sixty days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Class 2 misdemeanors include simple assault, disorderly conduct, resisting a police officer, and carrying a concealed weapon.

Class 1 Misdemeanor

A Class 1 misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of 120 days in jail and a discretionary fine. Class 1 misdemeanors include possession of drug paraphernalia, larceny, DWLR if your license was revoked for DWI, possession of stolen goods, damaging real or personal property and communicating threats.

Class A1 Misdemeanor

A Class A1 misdemeanor, the most serious type of misdemeanor, carries a maximum penalty of 150 days in jail and a discretionary fine. Class A1 misdemeanors include assault with a deadly weapon, assault inflicting serious injury, assault on a female, assault on a government employee and violation of a restraining order.

What are my Options?

If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, your case will be heard in District Court. You may have a number of options in your case. 

  • Your attorney can negotiate a plea deal where plead guilty to a lesser charge.
  • Your attorney can show the District Attorney what a strong case you have or why the charges are bad and the DA will dismiss the case.
  • If witnesses do not show up to court the case can ultimately be dismissed if the witness never shows up.
  • Depending on your criminal record, you may be eligible to participate in a community-service or substance-abuse counseling program that will result in dismissal of your case.  This is called a deferral program.
  • You can plead “not guilty” and request a trial.

What happens if I have a trial? 

If you request a trial, the State must prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. District-court trials take place before a judge who hears evidence and determines whether the State has proved your guilt. This is called a “bench trial.”  You do not have the right to a jury trial in District Court.  If the judge finds you not guilty, the case ends and you may go free. If the judge finds you guilty, the judge will impose a sentence in your case ranging from a small fine, to probation, to an active prison sentence. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor in District Court you can appeal your conviction to Superior Court. Once in Superior Court, you are entitled to a new trial before a jury of twelve randomly-selected members of the community.

What will show up on my record afterwards?

Unfortunately whenever anyone is charged with a crime (not matter how totally bogus the charges are) the record remains forever unless it is expunged.  We handle expungements for dismissed cases and also expungements for certain crimes where there is a conviction on your record.  For many the worst part of a crime isn’t the punishment it’s the effect on their ability to earn a living.  Even if the charge was a mistake and you had nothing to do with a hypothetical assault case you will still have to explain to a prospective employer why you have a dismissed assault charge on your record – unless it is expunged.  We will fight hard to protect your reputation and will explain the rules to expunge your charges if you are eligible.

Contact Raleigh Criminal Defense Attorney Wiley Nickel

A Wake County misdemeanor charge requires a skilled and experienced lawyer. If the State of North Carolina does not have sufficient evidence to prove that you committed a crime you may be entitled to a dismissal or a reduction of your charge. Or if the State violated your Constitutional rights during the investigation or prosecution of your case, a judge may suppress certain evidence in your case, meaning that the State cannot use the evidence against you at trial and dismissal is usually in order. Contact our Wake County law office today for a free consultation about your particular misdemeanor case.  Raleigh attorney Wiley Nickel will walk you through the steps for your case and offers free consultations.  You can reach The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel, PLLC at our office located in Cary, NC at 919-585-1486.

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Wiley Nickel

Wiley Nickel lives and works in Cary, North Carolina. In 1998, he graduated from Tulane University with a major in Political Science and a minor in History. After college Wiley went to work for Al Gore and travelled with the Vice President as part of his national advance staff. Following the Gore campaign he earned his law degree from the Pepperdine University School of Law in 2005. While in law school Wiley worked as a law clerk in the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office where he gained valuable criminal trial experience before taking and passing the California bar exam. His first job out of law school was for the Merced County District Attorney’s Office where he worked as a Deputy District Attorney with a focus on prosecuting DWI offenders. Wiley later joined the Law Offices of Joseph Uremovic where he focused on civil litigation and family law. When the opportunity came to join the Obama campaign in 2008 Wiley jumped at the chance. He spent three years travelling with President Obama as a member of his national advance team. In 2011 Wiley left his work for the White House to return to the practice of law. Wiley devotes the majority of his practice to the areas of criminal law, family law, traffic tickets and DMV issues. The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel was started with the goal of providing the best representation possible for all of his clients. Experienced, Compassionate, Aggressive Criminal Defense While defense attorney Wiley Nickel works as the primary attorney for all of his cases, he does have an associate attorney, a team of investigators, forensic consultants, and support staff to call on to help achieve the best possible result in every case. He limits his case load so that he can focus on providing the best possible legal defense to all of his clients. Every case is a top priority and the goal is to have your case dismissed with a focus on being able to expunge your charges at the end of the process. When he is not working, Wiley is an avid family man, distance runner and golfer. He loves North Carolina college sports and is hoping this is the year for Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Wiley is licensed to practice law in North Carolina and California.