Q: How are sentences determined?
A: North Carolina operates under a policy of structured sentencing.
Generally, a person's sentence depends upon the person's prior number and
type of convictions. A grid and chart is used to determine the record level
based upon the number of points a person has. Crimes are classified as type
of offense and these are shown on the punishment chart. A punishment chart
is located at www.aoc.state.nc.us/spac.
If the punishment block shows an A, the judge must impose an active
sentence. If the punishment block show an I/A, a judge may impose an active
sentence, but is not required to do so. Individuals sentenced for a felony
receive a maximum sentence in months and a minimum sentence in months.
Generally, the person will serve 85% of the maximum sentence for a felony.
1.Prior convictions for Class 2 and Class 3 misdemeanors do not count, nor do
prior misdemeanor traffic offenses when sentencing for felonies. For
example, if a person is convicted in District Court for carrying a concealed
weapon, first degree trespass, resisting arrest, and possession of marijuana,
since none of these are Class 1 Misdemeanors the person would have no prior
points in calculating the person's record for a felony offense.
2.If an offender was convicted of more than one offense in a single Superior
Court during one calendar week, only the offense carrying the highest number
of points is counted. For example, if a person is convicted of one armed
robbery and twenty breaking and enterings in one week of Superior Court,
only the armed robbery will count toward points for sentencing for
misdemeanors and felonies.
3.If an offender is convicted of more than one offense during a single session
of District Court, only the single most serious conviction is counted for
sentencing for misdemeanors and felonies. For example, if a person is
convicted of assault on a female and fifty county of misdemeanor breaking
and entering, the person would only receive points for the assault on a female
4.Judges may impose consecutive sentences for felonies.
5.For Class A1, Class 1, or Class 2 misdemeanors a judge cannot impose
consecutive sentences that exceed twice the length of the longest term of
imprisonment authorized for the most serious misdemeanor offense. For
example, if a person is convicted of assault on a female, five counts of assault
on an officer, and twenty counts of trespass, the judge could only impose a
sentence that would be the maximum for assault on a female and one count of
assault on an officer.
6.For Class 3 misdemeanors the judge cannot impose consecutive sentences
regardless of the number.
7.A person may only be convicted of being a habitual felon if they committed
a felony and are convicted, after that committed another felony and are
convicted, after that committed another felony and are convicted, and after
that committed another felony and are convicted. If a person is charged with
fifteen felonies and pleads to them at one time then they have only one prior
conviction for the purposes of being an habitual felon.
Q: Can the District Attorney's Office explain my charges, insurance points,
and driving license points?
A: No. The District Attorney's Office prosecutes rather than defends. You
must consult a private attorney for legal advice. The District Attorney is
prohibited from giving you legal advice as to your charges.
Q: Can I choose the attorney that will be appointed to represent me?
A: No. If you obtain a court appointed attorney they are assigned on a
rotating basis and the fee they are authorized by the court becomes a lien on
your property. You can hire the private attorney of your choice.
Q: If the witness does not show up will the case be dismissed?
A: It depends. Some cases can be tried without the victim appearing.
Sometimes the case may be continued if the witnesses do not appear. The
presiding judge may review the file and sanctions may be imposed.
Q: If I do not show up for court will the case be dismissed?
A: No. If you are a defendant it is a crime for you to not show up in court.
If you are a witness and do not show up a judge may put you in jail.
Q: They did not advise me of my rights. Can I get the case dismissed?
A: No. Law enforcement officers do not have to advise you of your rights
unless there is an incustodial interrogation taking place.
Q: Can I accept the money for a worthless check warrant I have taken out?
A: No. Once the warrant is issued the case must be resolved in court.
Q: Can I continue my case to any day I want?
A: No. Law enforcement officers have specific court days.
Q: Why can't the DA’s Office give me legal advice?
A: The District Attorney's Office prosecutes all criminal actions. The
District Attorney cannot prosecute and defend the same action.
Q: How long am I under subpoena?
A: You are under subpoena until discharged.
Q: Where can I find North Carolina Law, particularly statutes?
A: If you have access to the internet, the General Assembly's home page will
provide this information for you. (http://www.ncga.state.nc.us) If not, try
your local law school or the North Carolina Supreme Court Library or law
library located in Raleigh. Most Universities have a "government" section in
the library that has the statutes, as do most libraries. Finally, many local
courts have a limited library that may have some information.
Q: What is the difference between District Court and Superior Court?
A: District courts are the entry level trial court, and the proper division for
civil cases involving less than $10,000, all juvenile matters, and criminal
cases involving infractions or misdemeanors. If the parties involved in the
case do not object, District Court can conduct civil jury trials, or hear civil
matters with more than $10,000 in controversy. However, Superior Court is
the proper division for civil cases involving more than $10,000, as well as all
felony criminal cases. Both courts have jurisdiction over cases regardless of
the amount of money in controversy.
Q: How can I conduct a criminal record check?
A: Public terminals at the offices of most Clerks of Superior Court (in each
county) are available and will allow you to conduct these types of searches.
Frequently Asked Questions