Status Offenses Typically Elevate Crimes to Active Sentences
Status offenses essentially enhance a sentence, almost always on the basis of the defendant’s previous record. Here are two examples.
- Habitual Felon. The legislative intent behind this crime is the ideal that a felon with multiple prior convictions should be punished more based on his status and continued convictions.
Described in N.C. Gen. Stat §14-7.1 , a person who is a habitual felon is a person who has three prior felonies. In essence, the third felony can be enhanced. For convictions committed before 12/1/2011, whatever the underlying felony is, it is enhanced to a Class C. The exception is if the underlying felony is a higher class (A, B1 or B2). For offense committed on or after 12/1/2011, the enhancement is a four-class enhancement, but that enhancement is capped at a class C felony. The same exception regarding 1A, B1 and B2 also apply in this case.
Thus a simple shoplifting, in which an antitheft device is taken off of the clothing becomes a class H felony (Removing the anti-theft device elevates what might have been a simple class 3 misdemeanor shoplifting to a felony.) If the person were a habitual felon, commonly called a status offender, the simple Class H felony turns into a class D felony, which requires an active sentence.
Quite a punishment for something that really started as a shoplifting.
- Habitual DWI. Like Habitual Felon, the legislature established Habitual DWI because of the inherent danger in repeated DWIs, and the alleged recidivism for people who have a number of such offenses.
Described in N.C. Gen. Stat § 20-138.5, similar Habitual Felon, this is essentially a third-strike law: if a person accumulates three DWIs, the third is elevated from a misdemeanor to a class F felony. And here’s the hitch: it requires an active sentence of 12 months. The judge’s hands are tied. Even if a defendant has virtually no record (except for the previous DWIs) – which means that he/she could be a level II for felony sentencing purposes and otherwise eligible for probation, but the statute REQUIRES an active sentence of 12 months.