Common Questions and Helpful Answers About NC Criminal and DWI Charges
It is natural to have many questions and concerns when charged with a crime in North Carolina. These charges can have serious consequences and long-lasting effects on those charged with their families, so they need reliable answers quickly. Here, Todd Browning and Howard Long share their answers to many of these tough questions. Find out their thoughts on DWI, traffic charges, and many other crimes.
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How do police decide who to stop for drunk driving in Charlotte?
Police officers in Mecklenburg County and North Carolina Highway Patrol are trained to look for numerous visual clues and driver behavior patterns when deciding whether to make an investigative stop of a drunk driving suspect. These visual clues, identified by a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study on impaired drivers, help officers determine if there is enough reasonable suspicion to justify pulling you over for DWI.
Outside of DUI checkpoints, police must have reasonable suspicion to legally stop you for drunk driving.
How Police Determine Reasonable Suspicion for a DWI Stop
The visual clues identified by the NHTSA fall into one of the following four categories:
- Problems Maintaining Proper Lane Position
- Speeding and Braking Problems
- Vigilance Problems
- Judgment Problems
Visual clues used to identify Problems Maintaining Proper Lane Position include:
- Weaving within a lane
- Weaving across lane lines
- Straddling a lane line
- Turning with a wide radius
- Almost striking a vehicle or other object
Visual clues used to identify Speeding and Braking Problems include:
- Stopping problems (too far, too short, too jerky)
- Accelerating or decelerating for no apparent reason
- Varying speed
- Slow speed (10+ mph under limit)
Visual clues used to identify Vigilance Problems include:
- Driving in opposing lanes or wrong way on one way
- Slow response to traffic signals
- Slow or failure to respond to officer’s signals
- Stopping in lane for no apparent reason
- Driving without headlights at night
- Failure to signal or signal inconsistent with action
Visual clues used to identify Judgment Problems include:
- Following too closely
- Improper or unsafe lane change
- Illegal or improper turn (too fast, jerky, sharp)
- Driving on other than designated roadway
- Stopping inappropriately in response to officer
- Inappropriate or unusual behavior (throwing up, arguing)
- Appearing to be impaired
If an officer observed you exhibiting any of these behaviors, he may be legally justified in stopping you for drunk driving, but not always. For example, if you make an illegal turn, you have likely violated the law and an officer is likely justified in stopping you on that fact alone. On the other hand, if you were weaving within your own lane only, an officer is not likely going to be justified in stopping you. When a DWI stop is based on the driver weaving within a lane, North Carolina law generally requires weaving within a lane plus some other fact in order for an officer to make a stop.
Find Out if Your Charlotte DWI Could be Dropped
If an officer did not have a legal justification for pulling you over, it may be possible to have your drunk driving charge dismissed based on that lack of reasonable suspicion. If you have been arrested for DWI in the Charlotte metro area, contact a Mecklenburg County DWI defense attorney at Browning & Long, PLLC for a free consultation to evaluate your case and assist in making this determination.
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Will my NC driver’s license be suspended if I refuse to blow or if I'm arrested for DWI?
It depends. There are numerous instances where your driver's license will be revoked by North Carolina’s Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for issues involving or related to driving under the influence. The most common scenarios where the DMV will revoke your driver’s license is when you (i) willfully refuse to submit to chemical analysis (i.e. breath or blood test), (ii) are charged with and/or arrested for driving under the influence, or (iii) are convicted of driving under the influence.
License Suspension for Willful Refusal to Breathalyzer or Chemical Testing
The laws of most states, including North Carolina, highly encourage a person suspected of driving under the influence to submit to chemical analysis (i.e. breath or blood test). Such laws do so through the consequences implemented when a person refuses such testing. Specifically, North Carolina General Statute (N.C.G.S.) 20-16.2(a)(1) informs a driving under the influence suspect that they may refuse any chemical test, but doing so will result in their driver’s license being revoked for a period of one year, and in some cases even longer.
This often means that if you refuse a chemical test, your driver's license will be revoked for one year. It's important to know the difference between the various breath-testing instruments and the consequences of refusing to blow in these devices. For example, an alcohol screening test, often referred to as a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT), is a breath test that is typically administered roadside before you are arrested. Refusing to submit to this test is not considered a willful refusal and will not revoke your driver's license for a period of one year. Thus, an alcohol screening test is not considered a chemical test for this purpose. However, a breath test using the Intoxilyzer 5000 or Intox EC/IR II, as well as a blood draw, are considered chemical tests. If you refuse to submit to these tests, your driver's license may be revoked for a period of one year. The Intoxilyzer 500 and Intox EC/IR II are generally administered after you have been arrested and left the scene.
License Suspension After Being Charged and/or Arrested for DWI
Under North Carolina General Statute (N.C.G.S.) 20-16.5(b), a person driving under the influence is subject to civil revocation of their driver’s license if the following applies:
- A law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person has committed an implied consent offense;
- The person is charged with an implied consent offense;
- The law enforcement officer and the chemical analyst comply with the procedures of G.S. 20-16.2 and G.S. 20-139.1 in requiring the person's submission to or procuring a chemical analysis; and
- The person
- Willfully refuses to submit to the chemical analysis;
- Has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more within a relevant time after the driving;
- Has an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more at any relevant time after the driving of a commercial motor vehicle; or
- Has any alcohol concentration at any relevant time after the driving and the person is under 21 years of age.
When your driver's license is revoked under N.C.G.S. 20-16.5(b), the minimum period of revocation is either 30 or 45 days depending on when your driver’s license was surrendered. If your driver’s license is surrendered within five (5) working days of the revocation (generally the day you were charged), the minimum revocation period is 30 days. If your driver’s license is not surrendered within five (5) working days of the revocation, the minimum revocation is generally 45 days from the date you surrender your driver’s license. Additionally, if you have a pending driving under the influence charge or other implied consent offense, your driver's license will be suspended indefinitely until all pending charges are resolved.
License Suspension After a Drunk Driving Conviction
A conviction for driving under the influence results in a mandatory revocation of a person’s driver’s license by the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) under North Carolina General Statute (N.C.G.S.) 20-17(a)(2). The length of such driver’s license revocation largely depends on whether you have any prior impaired driving convictions, and if so, the amount of time that has passed since those convictions.
Contact Our Charlotte DWI License Restoration Lawyers
If your driver’s license has been revoked due to one of the three common scenarios discussed under this question, it is important to remember that there are often circumstances where a you may be able to legally drive with a limited driving privilege. A DWI defense attorney at Browning & Long, PLLC can assist you in getting you back on the road as soon as possible.
What factors will the court consider when sentencing me for a DUI conviction in Mecklenburg County?
If you have been convicted of DUI in Mecklenburg County, the level of punishment of you will face is determined by the existence and balancing of what are called grossly aggravating factors, aggravating factors, or mitigating factors. Several of the following legal terms can be difficult to grasp, so it's always best to consult with a DWI defense attorney if you've been charged.
Grossly Aggravating Factors for DUI Sentencing
Grossly aggravating factors are seen as more serious than aggravating factors. The State must prove any grossly aggravating factor beyond a reasonable doubt. With that, the first step in determining the level of punishment you will face if convicted of DUI is to find out whether any grossly aggravating factors exist.
Four grossly aggravating factors:
- A prior conviction for a DUI related offense (See N.C.G.S. 20-4.01(24a) for the list of offenses) if:
- the prior conviction occurred within seven years of the current DUI offense date;
- the prior conviction occurred after the current DUI offense date, but before or at the same time as the sentencing in the current DUI case; or
- the prior conviction was in District Court, the conviction was appealed to Superior Court, the appeal was withdrawn or the case was remanded back to District Court, and a new sentencing hearing for the case has not been held.
- At the time of the current DUI offense, you drove while your driver’s license was revoked and the revocation was for a DUI revocation under N.C.G.S. 20-28.2(a).
- Your DUI caused serious injury to another person.
- At the time of the current DUI offense, you drove while:
- A child under the age of 18 years was in the vehicle
- A person with the mental development of a child under the age of 18 years was in the vehicle; or
- A person with a physical disability preventing unaided exit from the vehicle was in the vehicle.
Aggravating Factors for DUI Sentencing
As mentioned, aggravating factors are considered less serious than grossly aggravating factors. However, like grossly aggravating factors, the State must prove any aggravating factor beyond a reasonable doubt. When there are no grossly aggravating factors, or where grossly aggravating factors exist but the judge decides to consider any aggravating and mitigating factors as well, the next step in DUI sentencing is to determine whether any aggravating factors exist.
Nine aggravating factors:
- Gross impairment of your faculties while driving or an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more.
- Especially reckless or dangerous driving.
- Negligent driving that led to a reportable accident.
- Driving while your driver's license was revoked.
- Two or more prior convictions of certain motor vehicle offenses for which at least three points are assigned or which subject your driver’s license to revocation, if the convictions occurred within five years of the current offense, or one or more prior convictions of an offense involving DUI that occurred more than seven years before the current offense.
- Conviction under N.C.G.S. 20-141.5 of speeding to elude.
- Conviction under N.C.G.S. 20-141 of speeding by at least 30 miles per hour over the legal limit.
- Passing a stopped school bus in violation of N.C.G.S. 20-217.
- Any other factor that aggravates the seriousness of the offense.
Mitigating Factors for DUI Sentencing
After determining whether any aggravating factors exist, the next step in determining the appropriate level of punishment in DUI sentencing is to see if any mitigating factors exist. It is your burden to prove the existence of any mitigating factor by a preponderance of the evidence.
Eight mitigating factors:
- Slight impairment of your faculties resulting solely from alcohol, and an alcohol concentration that did not exceed 0.09 at any relevant time after the driving.
- Slight impairment of your faculties, resulting solely from alcohol, with no chemical analysis having been available to the defendant.
- Safe and lawful driving at the time of the offense, except for the DUI.
- A safe driving record.
- Impairment caused by a lawfully prescribed drug for an existing medical condition, and the amount of the drug taken was within the prescribed dosage.
- Voluntary submission to a substance abuse assessment and voluntary participation in the recommended treatment.
- Completion of a substance abuse assessment, compliance with its recommendations, and simultaneously maintaining 60 days of continuous abstinence from alcohol consumption, as proven by a continuous alcohol monitoring system.
- Any other factor that mitigates the seriousness of the offense.
DUI/DWI Sentencing Levels of Punishment
The determination of the appropriate DWI sentencing level of punishment involves balancing the presence of any grossly aggravating factors, aggravating factors, and mitigating factors mentioned above. The chart below summarizes the six sentencing levels and the corresponding punishments authorized by N.C.G.S. 20-179.
Aggravated Level One
Factors Fine Probationary Conditions Three or more grossly aggravating factors Up to $10,000 If suspended, must require 1-imprisonment of at least 120 days; AND 2-alcohol abstinence of at least 120 days to a maximum of the term of probation, as verified by CAM.
Imprisonment: 12 months minimum to 36 months maximum
Substance Abuse Assessment Required: Yes
Factors Fine Probationary Conditions 1. Grossly aggravating factor in N.C.G.S. 20-179(c)(4); OR
2. Two other grossly aggravating factors
Up to $4,000 If suspended, must require 1-imprisonment of at least 30 days; OR 2-imprisonment of at least 10 days and alcohol abstinence and CAM for at least 120 days
Imprisonment: 30 days minimum to 24 months maximum
Substance Abuse Assessment Required: Yes
Factors Fine Probationary Conditions One grossly aggravating factor Up to $2,000 If suspended, must require 1-imprisonment of at least 7 days; OR 2-alcohol abstinence and CAM for at least 90 days
Imprisonment: 7 days minimum to 12 months maximum
Substance Abuse Assessment Required: Yes
Factors Fine Probationary Conditions Aggravating factors substantially outweigh any mitigating factors Up to $1,000 If suspended, must require one or both of the following: 1-imprisonment for at least 72 hours 2-community service for a term of at least 72 hours
Imprisonment: 72 hours minimum to 6 months maximum
Substance Abuse Assessment Required: Yes
Factors Fine Probationary Conditions No aggravating or mitigating factors or aggravating factors are substantially counterbalanced by mitigating factors Up to $500 If suspended, must require one or both of the following: 1-imprisonment for 48 hours 2-community service for a term of 48 hours
Imprisonment: 48 hours minimum to 120 days maximum
Substance Abuse Assessment Required: Yes
Factors Fine Probationary Conditions Mitigating factors substantially outweigh aggravating factors Up to $200 If suspended, must require one or both of the following:
1-imprisonment for 24 hours
2-community service for a term of 24 hours
Imprisonment: 24 hours to 60 days maximum
Substance Abuse Assessment Required: Yes
Contact Our Charlotte DUI Lawyers if you have questions regarding a DWI arrest in Mecklenburg County by calling 980-224-4482.
- A prior conviction for a DUI related offense (See N.C.G.S. 20-4.01(24a) for the list of offenses) if:
What could happen to me if I’m pulled over by the police and don’t have car insurance?
Like in all other states, you must have liability auto insurance in order to drive a motor vehicle in North Carolina. You should not take this duty lightly. If you are caught driving without it, you could be charged with a crime.
What Insurance Are You Required to Have in Mecklenburg County?
Under North Carolina law, all owners of a registered motor vehicle operated in our state must carry these minimum amounts of liability auto insurance:
- $30,000 for bodily injury per person and $60,000 for bodily injury per accident
- $25,000 for property damage
While you do not have to buy more than the minimum amount required, it is best to purchase additional coverage. This would protect you if you cause an injury in an accident or if you are hurt in a crash caused by another driver who has insufficient insurance to fully compensate you.
Charges and Penalties for Driving Without Auto Insurance
Driving without required motor vehicle insurance is a Class 1 misdemeanor in North Carolina. In addition to a criminal sentence, you would also owe civil penalties and could lose your license plates for 30 days if you fail to provide proof of new insurance and pay the civil penalties within 10 days.
The sentence that you could face would depend on how many times you have violated the law. Here are the possible punishments:
- First Offense. You could be sentenced to probation for 1 to 45 days. In addition, you would currently owe a $50 civil penalty and a $50 license reinstatement fee.
- Second Offense. Your punishment could be a jail sentence or probation for between 1 and 45 days. The civil penalty would increase to $100, but the license reinstatement fee would still be $50.
- Third or subsequent offense. The criminal penalty and civil reinstatement fee would be the same as for a second offense. However, you would have to pay a $150 civil penalty.
If you are convicted of this crime, you would also have a permanent criminal record that can have long-term consequences on many aspects of your life.
Were you charged with failing to have auto insurance or another traffic offense? Our knowledgeable traffic ticket defense lawyers are here to explain your options to you and to raise a strong defense so that you achieve the best outcome given your situation. To learn more, call our Charlotte office to schedule a free consultation today.
My child was recently arrested. Will he be charged as a juvenile or an adult?
If your child has been arrested, you are probably terribly worried about what will happen to him. In North Carolina, minors under 18 years old are often treated differently if they are charged with a minor misdemeanor offense and not a violent felony crime. They can be charged as a juvenile rather than as an adult and have their case decided in juvenile court.
What Are the Benefits of Being Charged as a Juvenile?
In our state, children between the ages of six and 17 are considered juveniles, and their criminal cases will start in juvenile court. Unlike the adult justice system, the goal in the juvenile court system is rehabilitation and helping the minor child to avoid committing another crime in the future. Here are some of the benefits of juvenile court:
- Infractions that juveniles commit are not referred to as crimes. They are called delinquent acts.
- In juvenile court, the proceeding is referred to as an adjudication hearing and not a trial. These hearings are also more private than in adult criminal cases, which are heard in open court.
- If the delinquent act was not violent, the child may be released prior to his adjudication hearing.
- Because the focus of punishment is rehabilitation, a minor’s sentence for nonviolent crimes will more likely be community service, education, and supervision rather than incarceration.
- A juvenile’s criminal records will be sealed so that they cannot be viewed by the public and will not have such long-term consequences on his life. If he successfully completes his sentence, he may be able to get his criminal record expunged when he turns 18 years old.
- Juveniles have a right to be represented by an attorney and will be appointed a public defender if they cannot afford to hire one.
When Could a Juvenile Be Charged as an Adult?
If a minor commits a more serious offense, such as a drug offense, weapons crimes, assaults, or other serious felonies, they can automatically be charged as an adult. Here are three situations when their case can be sent to adult criminal court:
- Prior adult charge. If a child had a previous criminal case transferred to adult court, any subsequent charges will also be heard in adult court no matter what the offense is.
- Discretionary transfer. If a minor is 13 years old or older and committed a felony, the judge in the juvenile court has the discretion to transfer the case to adult criminal court.
- Mandatory transfer. If a juvenile is charged with a Class A felony, such as first-degree murder, he will be charged and prosecuted as an adult.
If your child was arrested in Charlotte, he needs an experienced criminal defense attorney to help him fight to have the charges dismissed or reduced so that he achieves the best possible outcome given his situation. To find out how we can help, call our office to schedule a free consultation today.
Should I hire a private criminal defense lawyer or use a public defender?
If you are arrested for a crime, you have many difficult decisions to make, such as how to plead to the charges, what defenses you should raise, and whether to accept a plea agreement. You should not make these decisions without the advice of an attorney. Should you use a public defender or hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer?
Drawbacks of Using a Public Defender
If a defendant cannot afford to hire a criminal defense attorney, the court will appoint a public defender to represent him. The benefit of this is that the lawyer is free. Many are also hardworking, experienced attorneys. However, there are major disadvantages to using a public defender:
- High caseloads. Public defenders are assigned very high caseloads, which means that they would have less time and attention to devote to their clients’ cases.
- Overworked. Public defenders are overworked and often must handle too many cases at one time. As a result, they can make mistakes or be more likely to recommend a client accept a plea agreement to get the case resolved.
Advantages of Retaining Your Own Criminal Defense Attorney
There are many advantages to retaining a skilled criminal defense attorney. Here are a few of the benefits:
- Choice. You have the right to choose the right lawyer for your case when you hire one on your own. You do not have any choice if a public defender is appointed to represent you.
- Smaller caseload. A lawyer in private practice will have a much smaller caseload than a public defender. He will have more time to devote to building a strong defense strategy for you and will be more available when you need him.
- More resources. In addition to having more time to devote to your case, a private criminal defense attorney will also have staff working on your case.
- Better outcome. The likelihood that you will achieve the best possible outcome given your circumstances is greater if you hire your own attorney since he will often work harder to achieve this goal for you.
Are you facing criminal charges in Charlotte? Call our office to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation and how we can fight to get the charges dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.
Are the consequences of being issued a traffic ticket for speeding different than a charge of reckless driving?
Getting a traffic ticket for speeding is not at all like being charged with reckless driving in North Carolina. The penalties and long-term consequences are vastly different. Here are four important differences that you need to understand.
Difference #1: Infraction vs. Misdemeanor Offense
If you get a traffic ticket for speeding, the offense is a civil infraction that is punished by the payment of fines only. However, speeding can also be charged as reckless driving in certain situations, such as if you are driving 15 miles or more over the posted speed limit. Reckless driving is a misdemeanor crime, which is a much more serious offense than getting a traffic ticket.
Difference #2: Penalties Are Different
As noted above, the penalty for getting a traffic ticket is often a fine. The fines can range from $10 to $50 to up to $250 if you are caught speeding in a school or construction zone. The penalties for reckless driving are more severe and can include:
- Jail sentence of up to 60 days
- Fines not to exceed $1,000
- Possible driver’s license suspension of 30 to 60 days
Difference #3: Points on Driver’s License
More points will be assessed on your driver’s license if you are convicted of reckless driving than if you are ticketed for speeding. Four points would be added to your driver’s license for reckless driving, while two or three points could be added to it for speeding. Points on your driver’s license can affect your auto insurance costs and can result in your driver’s license being suspended if you accumulate too many points within a certain period of time.
Difference #4: Permanent Criminal Record
You will have a permanent criminal record if you are found guilty of reckless driving since it is a criminal offense. This is not true for a speeding ticket. Having a permanent criminal record can have long-term consequences on your ability to obtain employment, housing, security clearance, and more.
While there are many differences between a speeding ticket and a reckless driving charge, there is one way that they are alike. With both, you need the assistance of an experienced traffic lawyer who can explain your options to you, raise your defenses, and help you achieve the best possible outcome given your situation. To learn how we can help you, call our Charlotte office to schedule your free consultation.
Can I receive a ticket if I violate the law on driving in a high occupancy vehicle lane?
You are only allowed to drive in a high-occupancy vehicle lane (HOV) in Charlotte if you have the required number of occupants in your vehicle. If you drive in an HOV lane when you are not permitted to do so, you could receive a traffic ticket with punishments that include a hefty fine and points on your driver’s license.
What Are the Rules on Using an HOV Lane?
High occupancy vehicle lanes are used to reduce the terrible traffic congestion on N 1-77 and other highways and roads in Mecklenburg county. They are designed to cut down on single-occupancy vehicles and encourage commuting. Some of the benefits of HOV lanes include:
- They are more cost-efficient.
- They allow vehicles with more than one occupant faster travel on congested highways.
- They cut down on ozone pollution.
Only certain vehicles are permitted to drive in HOV lanes, and not all of them must have passengers. These lanes are open to:
- Vehicles with passengers. Motor vehicles with two or more occupants can use an HOV lane.
- Motorcycles. For safety reasons, federal law requires that motorcycles be permitted to use HOV lanes.
- Emergency vehicles. Emergency vehicles, such as ambulances, fire trucks, and law enforcement vehicles—that are responding to an emergency—are allowed to drive in HOV lanes.
- Public transportation vehicles. Even if only the driver is in a public transportation vehicle, he is permitted to drive in a high occupancy vehicle lane.
- Privately-owned buses. A privately-owned bus that can carry 15 or more occupants can use an HOV lane regardless of how many people are on the bus.
Use of an HOV lane is prohibited for these vehicles:
- Trucks having three or more axles
- Single occupant vehicles
- Vehicles using an HOV lane to pass
What Are the Penalties for Violating North Carolina’s HOV Law?
If you are pulled over in Charlotte for violating the law on who can use an HOV lane, you could receive a traffic citation. Your punishment can include a $100 fine and two points on your driving record.
You should not just pay the ticket without first considering your options since there are long-term consequences to traffic tickets. The points on your driving and insurance records can result in your auto insurance rates increasing for years after you pay the fine. In addition, your driver’s license could be suspended if you accumulate too many points on your driving record.
Let our skilled traffic ticket lawyers identify your defenses and determine the best option for you so that you achieve the best possible outcome. We represent clients in Charlotte and throughout Mecklenburg county. To find out how we can help you, contact our Charlotte office today to schedule a free consultation.
Can my DWI be expunged in North Carolina?
If you are charged with even a first offense DWI in North Carolina, you face harsh penalties, such as a jail sentence, fines, and driver’s license suspension. You also face the long-term consequences of a permanent criminal record. Unfortunately, expungement of your DWI is only possible under limited circumstances in our state.
Does Your DWI Meet the Requirements for Expungement?
When an expungement is approved by a judge, the criminal record of the conviction is destroyed.
A new law passed in December 2017 makes it easier for some individuals to obtain an expungement of their criminal convictions for nonviolent misdemeanors and felonies.
The law reduced the waiting period for an expungement of a nonviolent misdemeanor from 15 to 5 years and a nonviolent felony from 15 to 10 years. It also eliminated the number of expungements a person would be entitled to when a criminal charge is dismissed or the person was found not guilty.
Unfortunately, DWI’s are excluded from the definition of nonviolent misdemeanors under this law and are ineligible to be expunged. You are only able to obtain an expungement of a DWI in very limited circumstances. This includes:
- Your DWI case was dismissed.
- You were found not guilty of DWI at a trial.
How to Get Your DWI Expunged If You Qualify
If your DWI was dismissed or you were found not guilty, your criminal case is not automatically expunged. You must file a petition in the county where your DWI case was being heard. You should retain an experienced DWI lawyer to file your petition to be certain that the proper procedures are followed and so that it is granted.
Because of the harsh penalties and long-term consequences you face if convicted of DWI in Charlotte, it is crucial to retain an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible after your arrest. He can help you mount a strong defense that can result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense that can be expunged—even if you are guilty. To learn how our dedicated legal team can help you, contact our office to schedule a free consultation today.
What is the penalty for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon?
Under North Carolina’s Felony Firearms Act, a felon is prohibited from possessing a firearm. If you violate this law, you could be charged with another felony crime that is punishable by a lengthy prison sentence.
What Is the Crime of Possession of a Firearm by a Felon?
The Felony Firearms Act makes it illegal for a person convicted of a felony to own, possess, or have in his custody, care, or control a firearm or any other weapon of mass death and destruction.
The Act spells out what is considered a firearm. It includes:
- Any weapon, including a starter gun, that can expel a projectile
- Firearm muffler or silencer
Antique firearms are not considered a firearm under the statute.
The law prohibits someone from possessing a firearm who has a felony conviction in North Carolina, another state, or under federal law. The prohibition is a lifetime ban. The only exception is if the felony conviction is for certain white-collar crimes, such as antitrust violations, unfair trade practices, or restraints of trade.
Construction and Actual Possession of a Firearm
A felon can be found in either constructive or actual possession of a firearm to be convicted of violating the Felony Firearms Act. A person would be in actual possession of a firearm if he has physical custody or possession of it.
Whether an individual is in construction possession of a firearm would depend on the facts surrounding his arrest. If he is aware of the firearm’s presence and has the ability to control its use or disposition, this may be sufficient to establish constructive possession of it. He is not required to have exclusive possession of the firearm.
What Are the Penalties for Possession of a Firearm as a Felon?
Possession of a firearm by a felon is a Class G felony. If convicted, it would be considered a second conviction under North Carolina’s sentencing guidelines because the underlying felony that resulted in the ban on possession of a firearm would be the first offense. You could be sentenced to 12 to 26 months in prison. Your punishment may be increased if you have other criminal convictions.
Can You Ever Have Your Right to Possess a Firearm Restored?
It may be possible to own a firearm again if your felony conviction is expunged. Under a new expungement law that went into effect in 2017, certain nonviolent misdemeanors and felonies may be expunged.
Have you been charged with possessing a firearm as a felon? Do you have questions about having a felony conviction expunged? Call our Charlotte office to schedule a free consultation with our experienced criminal defense attorneys today to learn how we can help you.