Criminal Laws in Greensboro NC are on our mind. In the Fall of the year, Greensboro’s numerous Colleges and Universities face an influx of students and alumni. As a result, the Greensboro Police Department and the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department use a heavier hand in their police activity. The DWI Task Force, a program of Sheriff Barnes’, is particularly active around Spring Garden Street. Coupled with Fall Festivals, music events, and even Presidential visits, it is a good time to review the basics of criminal law. If you are charged with an crime, citation, or traffic offense, you may find it difficult to categorize the potential consequences. The trial attorneys at Garrett, Walker, Aycoth and Olson can help.
Crimes in North Carolina, are defined as either felonies or misdemeanors. A felony is any crime that was previously a felony under common law, a crime that is punishable by a death sentence, a crime that is punishable by active prison time, or a crime designated to be a felony by statute. Misdemeanors are defined as any other crime that is not a felony (a definition only a lawyer could write). An infraction is not a crime; it is a non-criminal violation that cannot be punished by imprisonment, only a fine, with a $100 dollar limitation. Some violations are labeled as violations of local government ordinances. Unless otherwise provided, a violation of a local ordinance is a Class 3 misdemeanor, with a fine of $50, unless specified, and limited to a maximum of $500. Traffic or parking local ordinance violations are punished as infractions, with a maximum fine of $50.
Misdemeanor punishment may be elevated if the crime is infamous (an act of depravity), or committed in secrecy and malice, with deceit and intent to defraud, or with ethnic animosity. Use of this enhancement is rare, as most offenses are expressly designated into specific punishment classes by statute.
Unless otherwise specifically expressed by the legislature, a misdemeanor offense, other than a conspiracy, committed in secrecy and malice, or with deceit and intent to defraud, becomes a Class H felony. If a Class 2 or Class 3 misdemeanor is committed with racial animosity, ie, because of a victim’s race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin, then the offense is raised to a Class 1 misdemeanor. A Class A1 or Class 1 offense committed with ethnic animosity becomes a Class H felony.
Any benefits gained by the commission of a crime are forfeited to the State, with the exception of unintentional deaths. The action to recover or bar procurement must be initiated within three years of the conviction date, and may be brought by either a District Attorney or the Attorney General.
Agreements between at least two people to intentionally violate the law is a conspiracy. A true agreement must be established, although one person may be convicted even if the other conspirator(s) were not specifically identified or charged. If convicted first, and other co-conspirator(s) are acquitted, the first conviction stands. however, a defendant has yet to stand trial, and all of the defendant’s other co-conspirators were previously found not guilty, then the remaining sole defendant cannot be convicted.
A conspiracy to commit a crime is punished one class lower than the specific felony offense intended. There are some exceptions, including statutes specifically requiring different punishment, as well as Class A and Class B1 felonies, which are both punished as Class B2 felonies, conspiracy to commit a Class I felony is a Class 1 misdemeanor, and a conspiracy to commit a Class 3 misdemeanor remains a Class 3 misdemeanor. Notable statutory exceptions include drug trafficking, which is punished at the same level as the offense itself.
Attempt, much like a conspiracy, does not require the completion of the offense itself. It is a specific intent crime, requiring both the intent and substantial overt act, that would have led to the completion of the crime if not for an interruption. Impossibility or the general inability to have actually completed the crime is not a defense. Also like conspiracy, an attempt is punished at one level lower than the intended crime, with the same exceptions. One of the more notable express statutory exceptions is attempted armed robbery, which is punished the same as the offense itself.
A person guilty of solicitation orders, advises, incites, or in some way intentionally compels another person to commit a felony. The act of the solicitation is the actual crime, rather than the act being solicited.
Solicitation is punished two classes lower than the crime solicited. Exceptions include specifically stated statutes, solicitation to commit a Class A or Class B1 felony, which are both punished as Class C felonies, solicitation to commit a Class B2 felony, which is lowered to a Class D, solicitation to commit a Class H felony, which becomes a Class 1 misdemeanor, and solicitation to commit a Class I felony, which is a Class 2 misdemeanor. Solicitation to commit Class 3 misdemeanor retains the same classification.
In North Carolina, there is no distinction between a felonious principal and an accessory before the fact in regards to both guilt and punishment. Intentionally assisting the principal in carrying out the criminal activity is regarded as equal culpability. The exception is in capital cases, where the jury makes a finding that the conviction is based solely on uncorroborated co-defendant testimony. In this instance, the defendant shall be punished as a Class B2 felony.
An accessory after the fact to any felony offense is punished two classes lower than the principal offense. Knowledge that the principal committed the crime, as well as knowingly giving personal assistance to escape or attempting to escape detection, arrest, or punishment is required. The offender may be convicted whether or not the principal is convicted or not. There are exceptions, including specifically stated statutes, Class A or Class B1 felonies, both punished as Class C felonies, a Class B2 felony, which is punished as a Class D, a Class H felony, which becomes a Class 1 misdemeanor, and a Class I felony, which is a Class 2 misdemeanor.
Relevant Statutory Authority
14-1 Felonies and misdemeanors defined.
14-2.3 Forfeiture of gain acquired through criminal activity.
14-2.4 Punishment for conspiracy to commit a felony.
14-2.5 Punishment for attempt to commit a felony or misdemeanor.
14-2.6 Punishment for solicitation to commit a felony or misdemeanor.
14-3 Punishment of misdemeanors, infamous offenses committed in secrecy
and malice, or with deceit and intent to defraud or with ethnic animosity.
14-3.1 Infraction defined; sanctions.
14-4 Violation of local ordinances misdemeanor.
14-5.2 Accessory before fact punishable as principal felon.
14-7 Accessories after the fact; trial and punishment.
15-170 Conviction for a less degree or an attempt.