SOME STATUS OFFENSES CAN MEAN LIFE IN PRISON
While the consequences of the status offenses previously described (see Part I, here) are bad enough, there are some status offenses that are arguably more severe: offenses that can turn simple misdemeanors into felonies and status offenses that can automatically trigger a sentence of life in prison.
- Habitual Misdemeanor Assault. I’ve had many clients understandably confused with his crime: the very title seems to say that it is a misdemeanor, but it is actually a felony.
Found at N.C. Gen. Stat. §14-33.2, a defendant is guilty of this crime when he or she commits some kind of assault on two occasions within 15 years and is convicted of a third. This is punishable as a Class H felony, which means it has a possible maximum sentence of 39 months (3 years, 3 months).
Thus a simple assault such as those that occur in a bar fight or domestic assault can be elevated to a felony.
And consider the look-back period: the law looks back 15 YEARS. That’s a long time. A person could commit 2 assaults when they were 16 and 17, then allegedly commit another assault at AGE 30, and be charged with Habitual Misdemeanor Assault.
Notably Habitual Misdemeanor Larceny operates similarly. (See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-70 et. seq.)
- Violent Habitual Felon. This is probably the scariest of all the status offenses: it requires life in prison WITHOUT the opportunity for parole. That means the defendant dies in prison. The only exception is when the defendant is also convicted of a capital offense and will be murdered by the State.
Found at N.C. Gen. Stat. §14-7.7 et. seq., a defendant commits this crime when he or she is convicted of a third violent felony.
And here’s the thing – the look-back period is the defendant’s entire life: there’s no time limit. Think about it: a person could commit two violent felonies when they were 16, and then commit a third when they were 50, and they face the possibility of life without the opportunity for parole for things they did as teenagers.
This is the most onerous of the status offenses.