Misdemeanor Sentencing in North Carolina

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Have you been charged with a misdemeanor criminal offense in North Carolina? This article explains how sentencing works for misdemeanor criminal charges in NC. We’ll be breaking down the types of punishment that can stem as a result of a misdemeanor, the sentencing structure that goes along with it, as well as the class levels of convictions. Marijuana possession is an example of a common North Carolina misdemeanor charge.

Misdemeanor punishment chart.PNG

This chart uses a classification system based on

1. The seriousness of the crime

2. The number of prior convictions (crimes convicted for)

The chart guides the conviction for the type of sentencing (whether its active, intermediate, or community) as well as the length. Each misdemeanor is assigned to a class, which you can see on the left side of the chart (A1, 1, 2, and 3). Generally, the misdemeanor classes are based on the maximum punishment prescribed under the previous law.

Misdemeanor Class Law Before Structure Sentencing

Class 1: Punishable by more than six months up to two years

Class 2: Punishable by more than 30 days up to six months

Class 3: Punishable by 30 days or less  

*Note that the A1 class is an exception to this rule, as it is specifically for assault cases.  Here is a chart that shows the structure of A1 misdemeanors.

Below you’ll find a detailed description of the steps that are used to impose a misdemeanor sentencing.

1) Determine the offense class for each misdemeanor conviction.

2) Determine the prior conviction level for the offender.

3) Select a sentence length from the appropriate sentence range.

4) Select a sentence disposition from those authorized.

A. Impose an active punishment.

1) Activate the sentence length.

B. Impose an intermediate punishment.

1) Suspend the sentence length.

2) Impose supervised probation.

3) Impose one or more intermediate punishment.

4) Impose any appropriate community punishments.

C. Impose a community punishment.

1) Suspend the sentence length.

2) Impose probation and/or any other appropriate punishment.

Types of Punishment: Breakdown

Active: Requires offender to spend a specified time in local jail or state prison. Misdemeanants who face a 90 day or less sentence must serve their time in a local confinement facility (jail) Intermediate:  Requires a sentence of supervised probation. Some examples include special probation, drug treatment programs, house arrest, or intensive supervision.

Community: Any authorized punishment that is neither active or intermediate. A community punishment generally consists of a fine or a term of unsupervised (or supervised) probation. Here are all the different forms of community punishment.

1. Any authorized condition of probation (except those defined as intermediate punishments)

2. Outpatient drug/alcohol treatment

3. Community service

4. Referral to T.A.S.C. (Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities)

5. Restitution

6. Fines

If you have any questions or have been charged with a misdemeanor criminal offense, please call The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel, PLLC for a free consultation at (919) 585-1486. Attorney Wiley Nickel can also be reached by email at wiley@wileynickel.com. Our office is located in Cary, NC and we handle misdemeanor criminal charges in Wake County and Durham County, NC.


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.