While misdemeanors are not as serious criminal offenses as felonies, they, too, have to be handled with care. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, your case will be heard in district court, as the original jurisdiction for misdemeanors lies in district court. Trials in district court are sometimes called bench trials, as these trials are heard in front of a single judge on the bench. If your misdemeanor case ends up in a conviction, you can appeal your conviction to superior court. In superior court, you are entitled to a new trial in front of a jury consisting of twelve persons selected from your community.
The North Carolina judicial system recognizes four types of misdemeanors – i.e., Class A1, Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3 misdemeanors — depending on the seriousness of the offense.
A Class 3 misdemeanor is the least serious type of misdemeanor. Prime examples of Class 3 misdemeanors include possession of marijuana up to ½ ounce, intoxicated and disruptive, shoplifting, and city code violations. While a district court judge generally does not impose a jail sentence on a defendant for a Class 3 misdemeanor conviction, Class 3 misdemeanors statutorily carry a maximum penalty of twenty days in jail and a $200 fine. If you have a bad record, you can end up with a jail sentence or supervised probation for a Class 3 misdemeanor conviction.
A Class 2 misdemeanor, one level up from a Class 3 misdemeanor, carries a maximum penalty of sixty days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Common examples of Class 2 misdemeanors include simple assault, carrying a concealed weapon, disorderly conduct, and resist, obstruct, delay a police officer. As with Class 3 misdemeanors, a district court judge generally does not impose a jail sentence on a defendant for a Class 2 misdemeanor conviction. However, if you have a bad record, you can end up with a jail sentence or supervised probation for a Class 2 misdemeanor conviction.
A Class 1 misdemeanor statutorily carries a maximum penalty of 120 days in jail and a discretionary fine. For you to be considered for a 120 day jail sentence for a Class 1 misdemeanor conviction, your prior misdemeanor or felony record level for misdemeanor purposes has to be level III – i.e., you must have five or more prior convictions. Common examples of Class 1 misdemeanors include communicating threats, possession of drug paraphernalia, misdemeanor larceny, misdemeanor possession of stolen goods, and injury to real property.
A Class A1 misdemeanor is the most serious type of misdemeanor recognized in North Carolina. Statutorily, Class A1 misdemeanors carry a maximum penalty of 150 days in jail and a discretionary fine. For you to be considered for a 150 day jail sentence for a Class A1 misdemeanor conviction, your prior record level for misdemeanor purposes has to be level III – i.e., you must have five or more prior misdemeanor of felony convictions. Common examples of Class A1 misdemeanors include assault on a female, assault with a deadly weapon, assault inflicting serious injury, assault on a government employee, violation of a restraining order, and sexual battery. Notably, a conviction for sexual battery requires the defendant to register as a sex offender on the sex offenders’ registry for a period of time.