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.
If you have a clean criminal record and are charged with having an Open Container you generally have very good options. By completing a substance abuse assesment and doing a few hours of community service there's a very good chance my office can have your case dismissed. If you are charged with having an Open Container in Wake County North Caroline call my office for a free consultation to see what we can do to help.
At The Law offices of Wiley Nickel, PLLC our Cary Misdemeanors Attorney provides aggressive criminal defense of a wide range of charges. First time offenders are often eligible for the first offenders program in Wake County whereby community service is performed to earn a voluntary dismissal of the charge.
Criminal Defense Lawyer Wiley Nickel is a former prosecutor with years of experience in the criminal justice system. A strong fighter in defense of his clients, Wiley Nickel understands the lifelong impact that a misdemeanor conviction can have on your job prospects and reputation in the community. Please call us today at (919) 585-1486 to schedule your free consultation or contact us online.
Our Misdemeanors Attorney Defends Against:
Shoplifting and Misdemeanor Larceny - shoplifting, or concealment of merchandise, is a class 3 misdemeanor punishable by up to 20 days in jail and is often charged when items are concealed while still on store property. First time offenders are eligible for a diversion program to earn a dismissal of the charge.
Misdemeanor larceny, a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 120 days in jail, is charged where the item taken is valued at less than $1000, is not the result of a breaking and entering, and the individual has exhibited the intent to deprive the owner permanently of its use. For first time offenders, Wake County offers a diversion program upon completion of community service in order to earn a voluntary dismissal.
Resist, Delay or Obstruct a law enforcement officer – A class 2 misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail where the offender interferes with an official duty being carried out by law enforcement. This can include running or resisting the police during an arrest, lying to an officer about your name or the whereabouts of an individual when an arrest warrant is being served, or interfering with an officer who is carrying out an official duty.
Damage or Injury to Personal Property and Real Property – Includes damage or destruction to buildings, land, or personal property such as vehicles, and punishable as a class 1 or class 2 misdemeanor.
Trespassing – Defined as remaining on property after being notified not to enter or remain on the premises, and punishable as either a class 2 or 3 misdemeanor.
Disorderly Conduct and Public Disturbance – Charged as a class 2 misdemeanor, these offenses involve public fighting, the public use of abusive language or gestures, blocking entry to a public building, disrupting the education of students in a public or private school or disruption of a religious service.
Simple Assault and Simple Affray – Both class 2 misdemeanors, simple assault is any offensive contact or the apprehension of harmful physical contact by another person. Simple Affray is defined as engaging in fighting in a public place.
Communicating Threats, Stalking, Cyberstalking, and Harassing Phone Calls – Can include threats of harm to another where it is reasonable to believe the threat could be carried out, as well as repeated contact with another in person, by phone, text or email where the purpose is to harass, threaten, or annoy the alleged victim.
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.
Have you ever received a speeding ticket in North Carolina? Did you just pay it off by mailing back the citation with payment? If you did that you probably found that your insurance rates went through the roof. Filing a motion for appropriate relief may be a way to reverse the bad effects caused by that decision.
When you pay a traffic ticket you are pleading guilty. When you plead guilty to a traffic offense, points are applied to your driving record and to your insurance record. What does this mean? It means your insurance rates will increase. In North Carolina, insurance companies can surcharge you per point placed on your record. This is why it is good to consult with Attorney before your scheduled court date. My advice is DO NOT pay off your Raleigh area traffic ticket until you speak with a Wake County Speeding Ticket Attorney.
If you are looking for a Traffic Defense Attorney and or an Attorney to handle a speeding ticket in Wake County Please Call The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel, PLLC at 919-585-1486.
If you paid your ticket and are seeking to escape the consequences of that mistake there is a way to reverse the points by having the case re-opened. This is called a motion for appropriate relief. Legal documents must be filed and served on the District Attorney’s office requesting that the case be re-opened. You should contact a traffic ticket lawyer in your area to assist you with this. It is not cheap, but it will save you insurance points and money in the long run.
The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel assists clients with representation with Wake County Traffic Tickets, Traffic tickets in Raleigh, License Restorations, reckless driving charges, high speed violations, warrant strikes, and other infractions. Feel free to contact us at 919-585-1486 for a free consultation.
How can I get my North Carolina criminal case dismissed?
There's no sure fire was to get a North Carolina criminal case dismissed. One great way to get a case dismissed is to take a very careful look look at the charging document. There are a handful of different things that could be wrong with your citation, magistrate's order, criminal summons, arrest warrant or statement of charges. The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel can review your charging documents and let you know if there was a mistake that could lead to a dismissal.
Here's a good example by way of a run of the mille larceny or shoplifting case. By law the North Carolina charging document must identify the owner of the property stolen. Very often the business who owns the property will be listed by their name instead of the name of the legal entity capable of owning property in North Carolina. This is an important legal distinction and one that is very often not included in the charging document.
A bill of indictment is fatally defective if it does not allege that an incorporated legal entity is a corporation or the name of the legal entity does not import that it is a corporation. The owner of the property in question is an essential element in a larceny case. If the owner is not properly identified the case must be dismissed.
The best known example is where an indictment in a larceny case was fatally defective because it listed the owner of the property as “Faith Temple Church of God” instead of “Faith Temple Church-High Point, Incorporated.”
More commonly a charging document might list “Wal Mart” as the owner of the property stolen instead of “Wal Mart Incorporated, a legal entity capable of owning property in the State of North Carolina.”
Generally this specific example is a temporary fix in the case of a larceny or shoplifting case. The District Attorney's Office could go back and file new charges against you listing the correct legal entity. But there's always a chance they would not go back to file new charges. At the very least this legal move could save you several months while the DA goes back to start from scratch with new charges.
The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel serves clients in Wake, Durham, Chatham and Orange Counties. The cases mentioned above are just examples and there is no one size fits all approach to getting a case dismissed. If you are charged with a crime and have questions about your charging document (and whether a mistake could lead to a dismissal) we offer free consultations to discuss your case.