New Changes to Misdemeanor Crime Sentences in North Carolina - Penalties will be lowered

The new budget contains provisions that will impact misdemeanor sentencing and the appointment of counsel.  This change will effect thousands of cases each year.

Republican leaders in both chambers have endorsed the bill. The General Assembly is expected to approve it in the next two days, and Governor McCrory is expected to sign it.

Change to Structured Sentencing grid.


Section 18B.13.(a) of the budget changes the misdemeanor Structured Sentencing grid as follows, effective for offenses committed on or after December 1, 2013:


Many Class 3 misdemeanors will only be punishable by a fine.  The same section states that “[u]nless otherwise provided for a specific offense, the judgment for a person convicted of a Class 3 misdemeanor who has no more than three prior convictions shall consist only of a fine.” Fines for Class 3 misdemeanors generally may not exceed $200. G.S. 15A-1340.23(b).

In addition to changing the punishments for Class 3 misdemeanors, the budget also creates more of them. Section 18B.14 reclassifies a number of misdemeanors – most currently Class 2 – as Class 3 offenses. The new Class 3 misdemeanors include:

» Obtaining property by worthless check, G.S. 14-106

» Simple worthless check, G.S. 14-107

» Failure to return hired property, G.S. 14-167

» Conversion by bailee, G.S. 14-168.1

» Failure to return rental property with purchase option, G.S. 14-168.4

» DWLR, G.S. 20-28 (unless revoked for DWI, then still Class 1)

» Certain motor vehicle misdemeanors that were Class 2 under G.S. 20-35, including: » Most NOLs, G.S. 20-7

» Failure to tell DMV of address change by driver, G.S. 20-7.1

» Allowing vehicle to be driven by unlicensed person, G.S. 20-34

» Certain motor vehicle misdemeanors that were Class 2 under 20-176, including: » Failure to carry registration card in vehicle, G.S. 20-57(c)

» Failure to sign registration card, G.S. 20-57(c)

» Failure to tell DMV of address change by vehicle, G.S. 20-67

» Certain license plate/registration violations, G.S. 20-111

» Window tinting violations, G.S. 20-127(d)

» Misdemeanor speeding, G.S. 20-141(j1)

» No insurance, G.S. 20-313(a)

» Repeat fishing without a license, G.S. 113-135(a) (referring to 113-174.1 and -270.1B)

Also, section 18B.15 of the budget reclassifies a number of boating safety offenses from Class 3 misdemeanors to infractions.


A main goal of these provisions was to save money on court appointed counsel for indigent defendants.  The report states that IDS’s budget (the agency that provides money for court appointed lawyers) will be reduced by $2,000,000 annually because the budget “[r]eclassifies low-level misdemeanors that rarely result in incarceration as Class 3 misdemeanors or infractions and modifies the sentencing structure for Class 3 misdemeanors so that the first three charges are fineable offenses. With no possibility of incarceration, these offenses do not require legal counsel.”

The changes made by the budget will provide that a defendant charged only with a Class 3 misdemeanor, and who has no more than three prior convictions, will be facing a potential sentence of a fine of $200 or less. 


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.