Can I go to jail for a misdemeanor in North Carolina?

We’ve handled hundreds of misdemeanors and the most common question is, can I go to jail for a misdemeanor? The answer is, as with everything in the law, it depends.

First, what is a misdemeanor? A misdemeanor in North Carolina is a low level crime. It is still serious in that a misdemeanor conviction is a public record, and a misdemeanor can affect certain other rights, including the right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment if the misdemeanor is a Domestic Violence related crime under federal law 18 USC 922.

It depends on your prior criminal history, and the charge involved. For most misdemeanors, if you have a clean criminal record (infractions don’t count), then you are not eligible for jail time at all. In other words, even if the judge thought you were the worst human being in the world, he or she could not put you in jail. The exception is class A1 misdemeanors, which are the most serious misdemeanors and include such crimes as Assault on a Female, Assault with a Deadly Weapon, and sexual battery.

So jail is probably not an option, and statistics indicate that the vast majority of people with little or no criminal history who are convicted of misdemeanors receive probationary sentences.

However, just because you are not eligible for jail, does not mean you shouldn’t take the misdemeanor charge seriously. Every day we get calls from people who were convicted of misdemeanors in years past, and who cannot find jobs because those convictions are discovered by potential employers.

While the new expungement law in North Carolina creates opportunities to have an old non-violent conviction removed from your record, you must wait 15 years from the time that the punishment phase ends, and have no new criminal convictions in that period.

That’s a long time. Hiring a good Raleigh criminal lawyer today, is probably worth the expense especially if that can make the difference between a conviction and a clean records.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.