North Carolina’s classification of a felony and its sentencing schedule is complicated. Like misdemeanor charges and sentences, each felony crime is assigned a class which is compared to the person’s criminal history to determine the sentence level. All felony convictions come with the possibility of a jail or prison sentence. However, with the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney, you may be able to avoid a jail sentence, depending on your criminal history and other factors.
What Are the Classes of Felonies and Their Sentence Ranges?
North Carolina has a sentencing grid to determine the sentencing range for felony convictions. It utilizes the class of felony, level of the person’s prior convictions, and disposition ranges in setting the sentence. Felonies are organized into 10 different classifications from Class A to Class I, with Class B felonies divided into Class B1 and B2. Class A felonies are the most serious and include murder, while Class I felonies, such as larceny of a dog, credit card fraud, and domestic violence, are the least serious. The prison sentencing range is as follows:
- Class A: Life without parole or death
- Class B1: 144 months in prison to life without parole
- Class B2: 94 to 393 months in prison
- Class C: 44 to 182 months in prison
- Class D: 38 to 160 months in prison
- Class E: 15 to 63 months in prison
- Class F: 10 to 41 months in prison
- Class G: 8 to 31 months in prison
- Class H: 4 to 25 months in prison
- Class I: 3 to 12 months in prison
How Is the Prior Record Level Ranges Determined?
Except for Class A felonies, a person’s prior record level must be determined before a sentence can be imposed. Each prior conviction is worth a certain number of points, and the points for all prior convictions are added up to determine the prior record level, which ranges from Level I to Level VI. Level VI is the most serious. Points would be assessed as follows for each prior conviction:
- Class A: 10 points
- Class B1: 9 points
- Class B2, C, and D: 6 points
- Class E, F, and G: 4 points
- Class H and I: 2 points
- Any misdemeanor: 1 point
Once the number of points has been calculated, the person’s prior record level can be established. This is how the levels are determined:
- Level I: 0 to 1 points
- Level II: 2 to 5 points
- Level III: 6 to 9 points
- Level IV: 10 to 13 points
- Level V: 14 to 17 points
- Level VI: 18 or more points
What Is the Disposition Range?
The disposition range is the possible length of the sentence to be imposed. To determine it, the judge uses the person’s prior record level and felony classification, and potential aggravating or mitigating factors to arrive at a range. These are the possible disposition ranges:
- Presumptive range. This is the standard sentencing range and will often be imposed unless there are mitigating or aggravating factors.
- Aggravated range. Aggravating factors include that the crime was especially atrocious or cruel, that the victim was very young or old, or that the person was hired to commit the crime. If aggravating factors exist, the aggravated range of sentences would be used.
- Mitigated range. The judge can consider a number of mitigating factors, such as the person’s financial support of his family, his taking of responsibility for his crime, or his belief that his actions were legal in imposing a sentence in the mitigated range.
Here’s an example of how the sentencing range works for a Class C felony where the person’s prior record level is Level III:
- Presumptive range: 77 to 96 months
- Aggravated range: 96 to 120 months
- Mitigated range: 58 to 77 months.
Not all felony convictions result in a prison sentence. Depending on the felony classification and the prior conviction record, the judge could impose an intermediate or community sentence, which could include house arrest, drug treatment, community service, or other punishments.
Sentencing for felony convictions is incredibly complex, and you should not face felony charges without the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. If you have been charged with a felony, let our legal team help you fight the charges you face to achieve the best possible outcome. To schedule a free consultation, call our office today.