The N.C. Legislature Makes Changes to Qualifying Crimes
The North Carolina legislature has made significant changes as to which out-of-state convictions qualify as prior felonies for Habitual Felon status.
We previously wrote a blog post about status offenses, including Habitual Felon status. Not mentioned there are out-of-state crimes, and this has been somewhat of a gray area. In some N.C. jurisdictions, to clear up the issue, some ADAs will qualify all out-of-state felonies as “Class I” felonies, the lowest level felony there is.
But the N.C. Legislature has provided some clarity on this point. According to the N.C. Criminal Law Blog, the new legislation “(1) clarifies the status of prior convictions from New Jersey and other states that don’t use the term “felony,” and (2) imposes a new requirement that a prior conviction from another state be for an offense that is ‘substantially similar’ to a North Carolina felony,” according to Jeff Welty, the author of the post.
Some states, including New Jersey do not use the term felonies. Rather, that jurisdiction uses terms such as “crimes” and “disorderly persons offenses” in place of misdemeanors and felonies, respectively. This makes the situation somewhat opaque insofar as the N.C. law specifically notes that only “felonies” can qualify as contributing to the status offense.
Under the new law, a crime from New Jersey can count as a felony if it is “substantially similar to an offense that is a felony in North Carolina.”
So what is substantially similar? The Courts have found that the inquiry is a legal one considered by the court. This likely means that the Court must hold an inquiry as to whether the elements from the originating state are similar to the elements in North Carolina. It seems that the burden in this type of matter should be on the party offering prior offenses as felonies – the State.
The new law is effective for crimes committed on or after Dec. 1, 2017. See the law here.
Garrett Walker Aycoth and Olson’s experienced criminal attorneys are available for free consultations regarding status offenses, including habitual felon status, or any other criminal legal issues you may have. Our firm litigates everything from traffic infractions and DWI to murder and armed robbery. Call 336-379-0539, or contact us via our online inquiry option.