Some crimes are more serious than others, but no matter the crime or charge, one thing is clear: you will benefit from having the experience and guidance from a criminal defense attorney. Attorneys Paul Castle and Taylor Hayes will handle your criminal case with extreme care because they know these charges and convictions can change your life forever. In most cases, your criminal record follows you for the rest of your life — why take a chance?
Types of cases handled
- Expungement / Expunction
Felonies must be handled with extreme care, as a felony conviction can change your life forever. Once you become a convicted felon, it is extremely difficult to get that off your record. In most cases, once a person becomes a felon, he or she remains a felon for the rest of his or her life. With a felony conviction on your record, you cannot vote. Every time you apply for a job, you have to explain to your potential employer why you have that conviction. If your potential employer doesn’t find your explanation satisfactory, you most likely will not get the job. As a felon you cannot own a firearm – regardless of what purpose. Possession of a firearm by a felon itself is a specific felony offense – i.e., a Class G felony that carries a maximum penalty of 47 months in prison.
The North Carolina judicial system recognizes ten different types of felonies – from Class A, Class B1, Class B2, Class C, Class D all the way down to Class I felonies – based roughly on the seriousness of the offense. Located all the way at the bottom of the North Carolina felony chart are Class I and Class H property crimes. Common examples of these property crimes include breaking and entering a motor vehicle (Class I), felony larceny (Class H), obtain property by false pretenses (Class H), and felony breaking or entering a building (Class H). Notably, some drug-related offenses, such as simple possession of cocaine, where the amount of the narcotics is very small, are classified as Class I felonies. Located all the way up at the top of the same chart are Class A and Class BI felonies. There is only one type of Class A felony – i.e. first degree murder. First degree murder carries a maxim penalty of either life in prison or death. A Class B1 felony, too, carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Common examples of a Class B1 felony include first degree rape and first degree statutory sex offense.
Examples of mid-level felonies – i.e., Class C, Class D, Class E, and Class F felonies – include assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury (Class C), robbery with a dangerous weapon (Class D), first degree burglary (Class D), assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury (Class E), and trafficking in narcotics. Each of these offenses comes with a considerable length of prison time as its maximum penalty. Class A, Class B1, Class B2, Class C, and Class D felonies each come with mandatory prison sentences. That is, if you receive a conviction for any of these types of offenses, the sitting judge has to impose a prison sentence on you, while the length of the prison sentence is to be determined by the class of your offense and the length of your prior conviction history, for the most part. If you receive a conviction for one of the remaining types of felonies (i.e. Class E through Class I), a prison sentence is not mandatory. A judge can suspended the prison sentence arising from your conviction and place you on supervised probation for a period of time. In some exceptional cases, a judge can place you on unsupervised probation after the payment of the court cost, a fine and, possibly, a restitution.
While there is no single right way to approach a felony charge or charges, a skilled and experienced attorney assesses the facts of your case and the nature of the charges and advises you on the right course of action. Depending on the severity of the charges and your prior criminal history (or the lack thereof), you or your lawyer can in some cases negotiate a misdemeanor plea agreement with a prosecutor. That is, pursuant to a plea deal, your original felony charge or charges may be reduced to misdemeanors and your case may be resolved in district court. However, if your case is not disposed of in district court, it will most likely be transferred to superior court through a grand jury indictment process. Once your case is in superior court, you or your lawyer may still be able to settle it through plea negotiations. A plea negotiation is a process centered on the concepts of compromise and judicial economy where you are expected to make some concessions in exchange for the concessions the prosecutor representing the State of North Carolina offers. Depending on your circumstances, you may elect to reject any plea offer extended by a prosecutor and request a jury trial. If you request a jury trial, your case will be tried before a jury consisting of twelve persons selected from your community.
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.
Expungement / Expunction
North Carolina law allows people a certain amount of leeway in putting criminal problems behind them. Under certain circumstances, you can ask a court to order that records of your criminal case be removed from public files. Removal of records of criminal activity from public files may make it possible for you to get on with your life, for example by getting into school or obtaining a new job. Expunction is a lengthy and tedious process where your financial future is at stake, so you should hire an attorney to advise you on it and help you seek it. If you try to do it by yourself and fail, the law may prohibit you from seeking it again, whether or not you hire an attorney for the second attempt.