North Carolina Criminal Law: An Overview

Compared to all of the other states in the U.S., North Carolina resides in the middle ground of crime rates—ranking 24th in violent crime rates in 2014. North Carolina similarly ranks as the 23rd safest state in the U.S. However, Robeson County, Nash County, and Halifax County rank in the top 30 counties in the U.S. with the highest murder rates in 2014.

North Carolina Felonies and Misdemeanors

Every state in the U.S. establishes, regulates, and executes its own criminal code as long as it's constitutional under federal law. As it is in other states, North Carolina classifies crimes into felonies and misdemeanors according to their type and severity. Felonies are the worst types of crimes a person can commit while misdemeanors are lesser crimes with less severe penalties.

There are 10 classes of felonies with penalties ranging from 3 months to lifetime imprisonment or death by lethal injection. On the other hand, North Carolina only has 4 classes of misdemeanors with penalties ranging from 1 day to 5 months' imprisonment.

Conspiracy to commit a crime is also punishable in North Carolina. Conspiracies are sentenced to the penalties of the next lowest crime class. For instance, if the crime that was conspired was a Class F felony, the conspiracy is sentenced as a Class G felony.

North Carolina DWI Laws

Like in every other state, North Carolina's DWI laws don't only apply to drunk driving. Anyone driving under the influence of prescription medication or narcotics can be cited with a DWI. Any level of driver impairment is illegal. With alcohol impairment in particular, however, the legal blood-alcohol limit in North Carolina is 0.08 percent. Drivers under age 21 cannot drive under any amount of intoxication.

The first DWI conviction (Level V) can earn a driver up to 60 days in jail and up to a $200 fine. Penalties increase even more with successive DWI convictions.

Capital Punishment in North Carolina

In North Carolina, first degree murder is penalized with the death penalty. However, there hasn't been an execution in the state since 2006. Executions continue to be on hold indefinitely as issues concerning racial bias and lethal injection practices are investigated. There are 150 inmates still on death row waiting for their sentences to be commuted to life imprisonment, completed, or dismissed.

Getting North Carolina Criminal Records Expunged

Criminals in North Carolina may have certain convictions expunged (erased) from their record. In general, many misdemeanors and some felonies are eligible for expunction under qualifying conditions, such as if the convictions were made when the criminal was under age 21. Crimes that were violent in nature and convictions where the criminal had pleaded or was found to be guilty are usually not qualified for expunction, though there are a few exceptions.

Contact a North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney

Anyone facing criminal charges in North Carolina has the right to mount a vigorous defense. An experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney familiar with local criminal procedures and laws can be a crucial advocate.

Make sure you talk with an attorney about your case and your needs before hiring one. Most criminal defense lawyers should be able to handle any misdemeanor or low-level crime. Not all attorneys are qualified to handle serious charges.

A qualified criminal defense attorney could mean the difference between going to jail and going free.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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