The state of North Carolina categorizes offenses into three main categories: Felonies, Misdemeanors, and Infractions/Ordinance Violations. Infractions and ordinance violations are the least serious while felonies are the most serious. A misdemeanor classification is for less serious crimes, but a conviction of this type is still a criminal conviction and can impact your life negatively in terms of job prospects, housing, financial aid and educational opportunities, and most important, your freedom.
The most common misdemeanors seen on North Carolina background checks are larceny, drug possession, and DWI. Assaults and domestic violence cases are very often misdemeanors as well.
Misdemeanors are first handled in district court, which is the lower level of the two state courts in North Carolina. District court is a court in which a judge makes a decision as to guilt or innocence and there are no juries involved.
North Carolina is interesting in that the evidence that the state has against you, called discovery, does not have to be turned over to you in district court. However, if an attorney requests it, it is usually handed over as a matter of courtesy. Your discovery provides valuable insight as to how strong or weak the state’s case is and what the defense strategy should be.
Typical misdemeanor cases in Wake County take between 1-5 months. Some may take longer depending on the complexity of the case. Sometimes, the more patient you are and the longer the case takes, the better the outcome.
If you are convicted in a district court trial by a judge, you have the right to appeal to superior court, where you are entitled to a jury trial. Appeals from district court to superior court must be filed within 10 days of date of conviction in district court.
Punishment for misdemeanors can range from probation to active jail time. A good Raleigh criminal defense attorney will understand how misdemeanors are handled in the North Carolina court system and will be able to effectively manage the process for you and try to get you the best result possible.