Waxhaw Misdemeanor Lawyer

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Waxhaw Misdemeanor Attorney

Waxhaw Misdemeanor Lawyer

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Misdemeanors are often thought of as “minor” crimes, but this is an oversimplification. It is true that a misdemeanor charge carries less baggage in the way of harsh criminal penalties and social stigmas when compared to a serious felony conviction like murder or armed robbery. Even though you have not been charged with a major felony, a misdemeanor is still a criminal charge. Dealing with any criminal charge can have real-life consequences, such as steep fines, a lasting blemish on your reputation, and even jail time in some cases. Fighting a misdemeanor charge in court is a very involved process, especially in cases that require lengthy court proceedings.

The skilled and experienced North Carolina criminal law experts at The Law Offices of Huffman & Kendrick can help you navigate all the complexities of your misdemeanor case. We can help prepare the perfect legal defense strategy for serious misdemeanor charges (for example, a first-time DWI or low-level drug possession). This can reduce your sentence, close your case with the best possible outcome, and let you move on with your life.

What Is a Misdemeanor?

Around 10 million misdemeanor cases are filed in US courts every single year. Yet many citizens are not fully confident in their understanding of what a misdemeanor is or how it is objectively different from a felony.

Part of this confusion comes from the fact that the legal definition of a misdemeanor—and the specific list of crimes covered by that term—can vary tremendously from state to state. In reality, there is no concrete, objective difference between misdemeanors and felonies.

Misdemeanors tend to be less serious crimes. Accordingly, they carry less serious consequences (typically community service, probation, and fines). Meanwhile, felonies are “worse” crimes linked to serious sentences, such as a year or more in prison. The line between which laws are “serious enough” to be felonies, however, is an inherently subjective and philosophical matter. Each state’s lawmakers interpret that line differently.

Making matters even more uncertain is the fact that some jurisdictions can apply misdemeanor or felony-level charges to the same or similar scenarios. Police and prosecutors also have significant leeway as to how they pursue charges for certain types of crimes. An example would be someone who is arrested with a moderate amount of drugs on their person. This could result in a simple controlled substance possession misdemeanor if the authorities accept that the drugs were for the suspect’s own personal use. However, the state could also bring in other evidence to make a case for felony drug dealing charges.

Thankfully, these determinations are not left entirely to the whims of police, prosecutors, and judges. In many cases, there are hard guidelines to determine whether a situation should be handled as a misdemeanor or felony, such as the quantity of drugs in someone’s possession, the total value of stolen goods, or the number of prior charges.

Misdemeanors Under North Carolina Law

Crimes in North Carolina are classified as misdemeanors or felonies, just like in any other state. However, North Carolina takes this organizational model a step further and divides misdemeanor-level crimes into four sub-categories.

  • Class 3 Misdemeanors: Class 3 is the least severe category of misdemeanor. Any wrongdoing less serious than a class 3 misdemeanor would be considered a code violation rather than an actual crime. Although they are the least serious violations under North Carolina’s criminal code, class 3 misdemeanors still carry a potentially significant sentence of up to 20 days in jail and a $200 fine. Common class 3 misdemeanors include minor marijuana possession, public intoxication, and open container violations (i.e., drinking alcohol in a vehicle).
  • Class 2 Misdemeanors: One step up are class 2 charges, which include disorderly conduct, reckless driving, unlawful concealed carry, and certain types of simple assault. The penalties also increase steeply versus class 3, with a maximum of 60 days in jail and $1,000 in fines.
  • Class 1 Misdemeanors: With the increase to class 1 charges, the potential jail time doubles to 120 days. There is no longer a solid sentencing guideline for fines, as this is left to the courts to determine. Trespassing and cyberbullying are two common class 1 charges in North Carolina.
  • Class A1 Misdemeanors: A1 charges in North Carolina represent the worst misdemeanors. In A1 sentencing, the court is again free to impose whatever fines it deems appropriate, and jail time can be up to 5 months. This is commensurate with the seriousness of A1 charges like child abuse, stalking, violating a restraining order, and certain sex crimes.

Enhanced Misdemeanors

When a misdemeanor is determined to be the result of a hate crime or gang activity, prosecutors can “enhance” the charges by up to two classes. For example, suppose someone was charged with disorderly conduct after delivering a loud, racist rant that made other citizens feel threatened due to their ethnic identity. The charges (and ensuing penalties) could be enhanced to a class A1 misdemeanor, even though disorderly conduct is typically categorized as a class 2 charge. When class 1 and A1 misdemeanors are subject to enhancement, the charges can even be changed to felony-level charges.

North Carolina Misdemeanor Sentencing

Sentencing guidelines for misdemeanors in North Carolina are based on the classifications above in combination with two other factors:

  • Prior Convictions: A defendant in a North Carolina misdemeanor case will be classified as Level I, II, or III depending on their prior criminal history. A Level I defendant is one who has no previous convictions, whereas someone with five or more previous convictions would be considered Level III. The higher the prior conviction level, the harsher the sentence is likely to be.
  • Type of Punishment: In a North Carolina misdemeanor, the sentencing judge gets to determine what sort of punishment is most appropriate for the circumstances of the individual case. The three categories of punishment are active punishment (jail time; the most serious form of punishment), intermediate punishment such as probation, and community punishment, i.e., community service and/or rehab programs.

Authorities in North Carolina reference this information against a published “sentencing grid” to determine the sentencing range for misdemeanor cases. For example, a Level I defendant convicted of a Class 3 misdemeanor should only be subject to a fine according to the sentencing grid.

Do I Need a Lawyer If I Am Charged With a Misdemeanor in North Carolina?

The United States legal system allows every citizen free and equal access to the legal process that keeps us safe and fairly treated. This means that you are free to represent yourself in court, whether you are fighting a traffic ticket, getting a divorce, or facing criminal charges like felonies and misdemeanors.

Of course, this does not mean representing yourself in court is wise. Accepting the services of a public defender can also cause problems. While public defenders are dedicated and well-trained public servants, the simple reality is that most of them are extremely overworked with massive caseloads. This keeps them from being able to give your individual case the care and focus it deserves.

It is best not to develop a false sense of security because misdemeanor charges are less serious than felony charges. If you fail to defend yourself adequately in court, misdemeanor prosecutions can lead to thousands of dollars in fines and over a hundred days in jail. Any money you saved by going to court without a lawyer can be quickly lost to punitive fines alone—not to mention the emotional and social cost of being incarcerated for criminal charges.

It is extremely important that you take any criminal charges against you very seriously, whether it is a simple class 3 misdemeanor or a serious federal case. Hiring a qualified criminal defense attorney from The Law Offices of Huffman & Kendrick will ensure that you are doing everything possible to defend yourself with a custom-tailored legal strategy. Our criminal defense lawyers know North Carolina law and can fight to have charges and sentences reduced or dropped. This way, you can put this trying time in your life behind you and get back to focusing on your life.

While it is not mandatory for you to hire a lawyer to represent you in a misdemeanor case, it is almost always a wise decision to do so.

The Law Offices of Huffman & Kendrick: Your Waxhaw Criminal Defense Attorneys for All Classes of Misdemeanor

No matter what sort of legal trouble you are facing, the experienced and compassionate criminal law experts at The Law Offices of Huffman & Kendrick can help you navigate the North Carolina courts and see your way to a better tomorrow. Do not let a misdemeanor charge become a permanent stain on your reputation, a drain on your finances, or—worst of all—the reason you spend several months in jail. We can use our intimate knowledge of criminal law and misdemeanor codes to fight for reduced charges and light sentencing. We can see to it that each of our clients obtains the best possible outcome for their misdemeanor charges.

Contact us today and let us help you with your misdemeanor case.