Changes to North Carolina’s Habitual Felon Law

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North Carolina has a Habitual Felon Law (a.k.a a Three-Strikes law). This law enhances penalties for someone who has been convicted of three previous felonies (on independent dates, not overlapping) and is now facing a fourth felony.

This law is different from North Carolina’s violent habitual felon law.

North Carolina’s Habitual Felon law, as it currently stands, permits the prosecutor to enhance punishment for lower-level felonies so that the person can be charged (and convicted) of a class C felony.

The law, as it has stood, is very punitive, especially affecting people with low level – Class I and Class H – drug convictions. If a person was previously convicted of a series of Class H or Class I felonies, then the person upon the fourth conviction, would be able to be charged as a Class C, making the penalty not, roughly, a year or two, but as much as 10 (a decade!) years.

Very harsh.

The new law, enacted this year by the North Carolina General Assembly, reduces the punishment somewhat, by allowing the prosecutor to charge a a habitual felon – and a court to impose – only up to four levels higher than the underlying felony or, at the most, a Class C.

Now, Class I habitual felons will be raised to a Class E, and Class H habitual felons become a Class D. All other habitual felons become a Class C.

While still pretty harsh, the new habitual felon law is a step in the right direction.

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