What is a CRIME in North Carolina?

Written by Thom Goolsby


A crime occurs when an individual commits an act that the law forbids or fails to do something the law requires. Many times a person can be held responsible, regardless of whether he/she knows that the action (or inaction) was against the law.

Crimes can range from small offenses that result in monetary fines or community service to serious offenses that can result in imprisonment or even death. The final outcome of any case will depend on the individual facts of the case, the defendant’s criminal record, and any agreements made as part of a plea agreement.

The more severe the crime, the less justified the acts are, and the greater the defendant’s personal criminal history, the stiffer the sentence.

Violations of the law in North Carolina are classified into three categories: Infractions, Misdemeanors, or Felonies.

Infractions: An infraction is a non-criminal violation of law. If you are charged with an infraction, you cannot be punished by going to jail. A fine of $100 is the maximum allowable punishment for a person found responsible for an infraction. A court cost can also be assessed. Most traffic offenses (i.e. speeding tickets) are considered infractions.

Misdemeanors: A misdemeanor is a criminal violation of the law punishable by no more than six months in jail. Misdemeanors are divided into four categories (A1, 1, 2, and 3), depending on the seriousness of the offense. These cases usually result in detention in the county jail, a fine and/or community service. Possession of drug paraphernalia, DWI and disorderly conduct are examples of misdemeanors.

Felonies: In North Carolina, felonies are generally classified as any crime that is punishable by imprisonment in a State facility or death. Some offenses that would otherwise be misdemeanors can be designated as felonies, depending on the presence of aggravating factors. The length of imprisonment for a felony may vary from months to life in prison, without the possibility of parole. For the most serious felonies, the punishment can be a sentence of death by lethal injection. Examples of felonies include most drug offenses, burglary and rape.

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