When someone is charged with a crime, his or her first question is, normally, what’s the chance I’ll be convicted and what sentence will I probably get?

First, no guarantees can be made about whether or not someone will be convicted, or whether or not they will get this or that punishment. That’s because there are so many different facts and circumstances unique to a case involved that’d be impossible to predict with absolute accuracy what the result will be. In addition, attorneys are under an ethical obligation not to guarantee results.

While there can be no guarantees, sometimes statistics can helpful in understanding how the law works and how certain convictions are treated.


For instance, in fiscal year 2008/9 more than 150,000 people were sentenced for misdemeanor convictions in North Carolina. According to the most recent Citizen Guide on structured sentencing:

  • 48 percent of misdemeanor convictions involved public order offenses (public intoxication, underage drinking, DWI, etc.)
  • 25 percent involved property crimes.
  • 17 percent involved drug offenses.

  • 10 percent involved person offenses (assaults, affrays, etc.)

In addition, misdemeanor punishments tend toward probation and fines:

  • 74 percent of misdemeanor convictions involved a Community Punishment (probation, fines, court costs, community service, etc.)
  • 24 percent of convictions involved Active Punishment (a jail or prison sentence)
  • 2 percent of convictions involved an Intermediate Punishment (either one or a combination of punishments harsher than Community Punishment, but less harsh than Active Punishment)

Most misdemeanor convictions tend toward a community punishment, but for many of my clients the punishment isn’t the important part of the equation – it’s the conviction that matters. North Carolina has a number of different programs, from First Offenders to Drug Diversion 90-96, that can be used to avoid a conviction altogether. Consult with a lawyer about this possibility in your case.

Damon Chetson - 992 posts

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.

Misdemeanors, Sentencing Guidelines