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Understanding the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony

    When it comes to crimes, there are many different levels and categories. One of the most basic ways crimes are categorized is through felony and misdemeanor classifications. If you would like to learn more about misdemeanors vs. felonies, keep reading.

    Types of Misdemeanors

    In North Carolina, misdemeanors are categories into four different groups: Class A1, Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3. Class A1 misdemeanors are the most serious offenses. They include domestic violence, assault, sexual battery, using a deadly weapon, etc. Class 3 offenses are less serious and include crimes like shoplifting.

    Additionally, if you are convicted of a misdemeanor, you will have a conviction level. Level I means you’ve had no other convictions. Level II is for people with one to four convictions, and Level III conviction level is for people with five or more previous convictions.

    Types of Felonies

    Felonies are also categorized into different classes. Class A felonies are the most serious and include crimes like murder. Class I felonies are the least severe and include crimes like embezzlement or stalking.

    Felony convictions also depend on any previous convictions. In fact, each conviction adds points to the record of whoever is convicted. For example, each previous Class A felony conviction adds 10 points, but each previous misdemeanor conviction only adds one point. The points are then used to determine your record level, which can range from Level I (zero to one point) to Level VI (18 or more points).


    Penalties vary and depend on many factors, but typically felonies come with harsher punishments than misdemeanors because they are more serious. Even if you are convicted of a Class A1 misdemeanor, you may only face up to 150 days in jail. In many cases, your attorney may be able to get the courts to assign community service instead of jail time. Naturally, there will also be fines, regardless of the class of misdemeanor.

    Felonies usually lead to prison time, but in some cases, the courts may agree to probation or house arrest. For Class C and under, you may get between 3 and 182 months in prison. For Class B felonies, you may face life in prison. Finally, Class A felonies always come with life in prison (without the possibility of parole) or the death penalty.

    The points are used to help determine the disposition range: presumptive, aggravated, or mitigated. Presumptive range sentencing is the standard, but if there are aggravating factors, more time may be added. On the other hand, there may be mitigating factors, such as financial situations, that the judge may use to reduce your sentence.

    Long-Term Effects

    The long-term effects of having a conviction can be devastating. Employers may be less inclined to hire you. Luckily, you may be able to get your convictions expunged or removed from your criminal record, so they can’t be used against you in your personal life.

    Getting a misdemeanor expunged is usually easier than getting a felony expunged. In fact, before December 2017, you could not get a felony conviction expunged in North Carolina. To have any conviction expunged, however, you need to have not committed any crimes in the recent past, and you’ll have to wait a few years after you finished your sentence to qualify.

    There are still some exceptions to the expungement rule. First, only Class H and Class I crimes can be expunged. They must also be non-violent crimes and not include any sex or stalking-related offenses. Naturally, it also excludes any offenses that would require you to add your name to the sex offender registry.

    If you’ve been arrested for a crime, you may be worried about what will happen if you are convicted. In many cases, however, a good attorney can get your punishment reduced, and after some time, you may be able to have the crime removed from your record. For more information, or if you need help defending yourself, contact us at Carl L Britt, Jr. Attorney at Law today.

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