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What is the difference between felony and misdemeanor?

On Behalf of | Sep 11, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

Simply put, misdemeanors are less serious crimes than felonies. People who admit to or are found guilty of committing felonies face longer jail or prison sentences, more substantial fines and other severe consequences.

North Carolina classifies felonies and misdemeanors into grids from the most serious to least. Felonies contain 10 categories, while there are four misdemeanor classes. Below are comprehensive lists of each class and possible prison sentences.

Felony classes

The North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission lists the classes and possible punishments, which include:

Class A: Punishable by death or life without parole

  • First-degree murder

Class B1: Punishable with 144 months in prison to life without parole

  • Second-degree murder
  • First-degree forcible/statutory rape
  • First-degree forcible/statutory sexual offense

Class B2: Punishable with 94 to 484 months in prison

  • Second-degree murder

Class C: Punishable with 44 to 204 months

  • Second-degree forcible rape
  • Second-degree forcible sexual offense
  • Assault
  • First-degree kidnapping
  • Embezzlement

Class D: Punishable with 38 to 204 months

  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • First-degree burglary
  • First-degree arson
  • Armed robbery
  • Child abuse inflicting serious physical injury
  • Death by vehicle
  • Sell or deliver a controlled substance to a person under 16 but over 13

Class E: Punishable by 15 to 59 months

  • Sexual activity by a substitute parent or guardian
  • Assault
  • Discharging weapon into occupied property
  • Assault with a firearm on a law enforcement officer
  • Second-degree kidnapping
  • Embezzlement of at least $100,000

Class F: Punishable by 10 to 59 months

  • Involuntary manslaughter
  • Assault inflicting serious bodily injury
  • Assault on a government officer or employee
  • Assault on a law enforcement officer
  • Felonious restraint
  • Burning of certain other buildings
  • Taking indecent liberties with children
  • Patronizing a prostitute
  • Possess weapon of mass destruction
  • Habitual impaired driving

Class G: Punishable by eight to 47 months

  • Second-degree burglary
  • Second-degree arson
  • Common law robbery
  • Identity theft
  • Possession of firearms by a felon
  • Sale of Schedule I or II controlled substance

Class H: Punishable by four to 39 months

  • Assault by strangulation
  • Habitual misdemeanor assault
  • Breaking or entering a building with felonious intent
  • Fraudulently setting fire to dwelling houses
  • Possessing stolen goods
  • Theft of property worth more than $1,000
  • Embezzlement of less than $100,000
  • Hit and run resulting in injury
  • Sale of Schedule III, IV, V or VI controlled substance
  • Escaping from prison

Class I: Punishable by three to 24 months

  • Breaking or entering motor vehicles
  • Credit card theft
  • Forgery of notes, securities, checks
  • Uttering forged paper or instrument
  • Marijuana possession over ½ ounce
  • Cocaine possession
  • Maintaining a dwelling or motor vehicle for keeping or selling a controlled substance
  • Obtaining a controlled substance by fraud

Misdemeanor classes

Class A1: Up to 150 days in jail

  • Assault causing serious injury using a deadly weapon
  • Assault on a female
  • Assault on a child under 12 years old
  • Assault on a state officer or employee
  • Assault by pointing a gun
  • Violation of a protective order

Class 1: Up to 120 days in jail

  • Breaking or entering buildings
  • Theft of property valued $1,000 or less
  • Unauthorized use of a motor vehicle
  • Issuing bad checks under $2,000 from a closed account
  • Willful or wanton injury to real property
  • Communicating threats
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia
  • Obtaining Social Security benefits of $400 or less through misrepresentation

Class 2: Up to 60 days in jail

  • Simple assault/assault and battery
  • Financial transaction card fraud
  • Willful or wanton injury to personal property worth $200 or less
  • Indecent exposure
  • Using profane, indecent or threatening language to another person over a telephone
  • Cyberstalking
  • Resisting officers
  • Carrying concealed weapons
  • Disorderly conduct

Class 3: Up to 20 days in jail

  • Concealment of merchandise in stores
  • Issuing a bad check for $2,000 or less
  • Second-degree trespassing
  • Failure to return rental property
  • Intoxicated and disruptive in public
  • Open container of wine or liquor in the passenger area of a vehicle
  • Marijuana possession of ½ ounce or less
  • Possession of marijuana drug paraphernalia
  • First-offense hunting without a license
  • First-offense fishing without a license

Other elements affecting sentencing

Other factors can influence sentences, such as prior convictions, or whether the person faces conspiracy or solicitation charges, attempting to commit a specified crime or being an accessory.

A conviction for any crime, regardless of whether it’s a felony or misdemeanor, can have life-altering consequences. If you are charged, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney who will protect your rights by reviewing the evidence and examining whether police had probable cause to search or arrest you.