Best Greensboro Lawyer helps with felony sentencing and is always there to explain the complexities to their clients.
The Felony Punishment Chart is set up on a grid. A copy may be found here of the NC Felony Sentencing Chart. The front page of the chart shows the felony offense classes from A to I on the left-hand side and the prior criminal record level (with the points for each level) across the top. This front page shows minimum sentence ranges only. To find the maximum sentence range that goes with each minimum range you must look at the second page for felony classes B1 through E and on the third page for felony classes F through I.
Within each “box” on the first page are three rows of numbers. The top row is for sentences in the “aggravating” range. The middle row (in bold print) is the sentence ranges for the “presumptive” range. The bottom row is the sentence range for the “mitigating” range. The judge is supposed to sentence a defendant in the “presumptive” range unless he finds either mitigating or aggravating factors that would allow him/her to sentence above or below the presumptive ranges. I have included the statute with a list of aggravating and mitigating factors a judge can consider. He/she can consider others not mentioned. If the judge sentences outside of the presumptive range, he must list which aggravating or mitigating factors exist in the case to allow him/her to do so. Because a defendant can appeal on the judge’s findings about aggravating or mitigating factors but not about a presumptive sentence, the judges generally tend to sentence in the presumptive range.
In the last couple of years there has been a change in the law on the authority of a judge to sentence in the aggravating range, when it was held unconstitutional for the judge alone apply the aggravating range. Now, if the DA wants a sentence in the aggravating range, he/she either has to submit the aggravating factors to the jury for them to find beyond a reasonable doubt or get the defendant to plead to a sentence in the aggravating range as part of a plea bargain. If a DA does not do that, then the sentencing judge is left with sentence options in the presumptive and mitigating ranges only.
The fourth and fifth pages are the blank prior criminal record worksheets. In figuring up the prior criminal record points for a felony sentencing hearing, you only count prior felony convictions and prior Class 1 or A1 misdemeanor convictions. Where there are convictions to several charges on one day, you only count the most serious single conviction on that date. (So, for example, if on one day a defendant pleads to 5 Class H felonies and 1 Class G felony, the prior criminal record points would be 4, for the Class G felony. The Class H felonies wouldn’t count any points.) This rule holds true for all defendants who do not qualify for habitual felon status. It is my understanding that you have no prior record, so you would be a Level I for punishment purposes.
Once the class of the crime/punishment and the prior record level of the defendant are determined, then the judge usually sentences the defendant somewhere in that defendant’s “box.” If the sentence is left up to the judge, then the State and the Defendant are allowed to argue to the court (and present evidence) about where the sentence should be. In the boxes are one or more letters: C,I,or A. These represent the kind of punishment a judge may give. “C” (“community”) punishment includes unsupervised to supervised probation. “I” (“intermediate”) punishment includes intensive probation to “split” sentences (part active, part probation). “A” (“active”) punishments are only active time in jail, the county farm or prison. If your case falls in an “A” box, for example, the judge can only give you active time.
If active time is given, a defendant must serve all of the minimum sentence but may be able to work off “good time” against the maximum and not serve more than the minimum. The good time credit against the maximum time is controlled by the prison system, not the judge.
A person who is put on probation, is given a sentence, which is then suspended with the defendant being placed on probation for a listed period of time. The terms of probation include “general” terms and any “special” terms that the judge wants to give. If the defendant violates the terms of his probation, he can be brought back to court, his probation “revoked” and made to serve the sentence that had been suspended.
For further explanation, contact Greensboro’s top felony trial lawyers, at Garrett, Walker, Aycoth and Olson. We return every call, every day.