North Carolina Structured Sentencing is looking more like Federal Sentencing Guidelines

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Generally, North Carolina law has abjured the use of special sentencing enhancements for most crimes. In our structured sentencing system, if convicted of a crime, a defendant is sentenced in the presumptive, unless the state can prove that aggravating factors outweigh mitigating factors or the defense can prove mitigating factors outweigh aggravating factors.

(DWIs and drug trafficking sentencing is outside the scope of structured sentencing.)

The use of generally applicable aggravating or mitigating factors means that structured sentencing has stayed away from the various offense-specific characteristics that pervade federal sentencing and make the federal sentencing guidelines a veritable nightmare to apply.

As I’ve written elsewhere, North Carolina sentencing law is no longer really structured.

Now the North Carolina General Assembly has proposed an omnibus firearms bill that makes it easier for law-abiding citizens to obtain and possess guns, but enhances certain penalties for felony convictions where a gun is used or displayed.

If a person is convicted of a felony and it is found as provided in this section that: (i) the person committed the felony by using, displaying, or 21 threatening the use or display of a firearm or deadly weapon and (ii) the person actually possessed the firearm or deadly weapon about his or her person, then the person shall have the minimum term of imprisonment to which the person is sentenced for that felony increased as follows:

(1) If the felony is a Class A, B1, B2, C, D, or E felony, the minimum term of imprisonment to which the person is sentenced for that felony shall be increased by 72 months. The maximum term of imprisonment shall be the maximum term that corresponds to the minimum term after it is increased by 72 months, as specified in G.S. 15A-1340.17(e) and (e1).

(2) If the felony is a Class F or G felony, the minimum term of imprisonment to which the person is sentenced for that felony shall be increased by 36 months. The maximum term of imprisonment shall be the maximum term that corresponds to the minimum term after it is increased by 36 months, as specified in G.S. 15A-1340.17(d).

(3) If the felony is a Class H or I felony, the minimum term of imprisonment to which the person is sentenced for that felony shall be increased by 12 months. The maximum term of imprisonment shall be the maximum term that corresponds to the minimum term after it is increased by 12 months, as specified in G.S. 15A-1340.17(d).

These enhancements look a lot like various offense-specific enhancements present in the federal sentencing guidelines which can add points to a person’s base offensive level if, during certain crimes, they possess, display, brandish, or fire a weapon.

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