Felonies In NC

Our Strong Criminal Legal Defense Team Have Experience Trying Class A to Class I Cases In State & Federal Courts



Plumides, Romano & Johnson, PC has a strong criminal defense team with decades of experience in defending individuals against allegations ranging from minor misdemeanors to extremely serious felonies. We handle cases at both the state and federal level. Below you can find an outline of what to expect if you are charged with a felony by the State of North Carolina.

You need to know your rights as well as the consequences so that you can have the best representation possible.




If you are charged with a felony, you probably have a lot of questions about the criminal law process and your rights.

A felony is a crime that generally speaking, is punishable by more than one year of imprisonment. This gets a little confusing in North Carolina because a person with no prior criminal history who is convicted of the lowest-level felony is actually not punishable by more than one year imprisonment, and the most a judge has the power to sentence you to is a suspended sentence where you are subject to jail time only if you violate your probation or another term of your suspended sentence. In such a case, even if you were to receive the maximum suspended sentence possible and then violated probation, you would be released on post-release supervision before serving 12 months incarceration.

In North Carolina, felonies are divided into 10 different levels, or classes, of seriousness, ranging from Class A to Class I. 


North Carolina still has the death penalty, which means the maximum sentence one can receive for a Class A felony, the most serious level of felony, is a punishment of death. Other components of sentences can include fines, restitution, community service, substance abuse assessment and/or counseling, anger management classes and other requirements.

Beyond sentencing, the impact and consequences of a felony conviction can be devastating and long-lasting. It can also cause you to lose many types of professional licensure and/or your job, make it extremely difficult to find housing, disallow you from joining the armed forces, and prohibit you from joining certain professions. One example of a loss of professional licensure is if you hold a Commercial Driver’s License at the time of certain drug offenses.

Jobseekers are often asked from potential employers about their criminal history, and many will automatically disqualify someone from possible employment if they have been convicted of a felony.

Besides your guaranteed rights under the constitutions of North Carolina and the United States, these potential consequences are what makes it so incredibly important to have the best representation and defenses possible.


When You Are Charged With a Felony?

Felony cases are first filed in District Court. Low-level felonies are often resolved at this level through plea agreements that reduce the charges. However, know that just because you are being offered a reduced charge, even if it is a misdemeanor, that conviction can still have life-altering consequences and you are ALWAYS entitled to force the State to prove to a jury that you have committed each and every element of every crime of which you are accused.

If the case is not resolved in district court, the prosecution presents the case to a grand jury. If the grand jury decides that there is probable cause that you committed the felony in question, you will be charged via a bill of indictment and the case will transfer to Superior Court.
The good news about having a felony charge proceed to Superior Court is this: once your case is in Superior Court, you have a legal right to receive every piece of evidence that is material, or required for the State to prove its case against you. This information is referred to as “discovery” and can include full police reports that are not publicly available, witness statements, police officer dashcam and body-worn camera footage, lab reports, surveillance footage, medical records and more. This is different from District Court, where there is no law that gives you the right to all of this information.

Once you and your attorney receive discovery, your attorney should review it with a fine-tooth comb to see what your potential defenses are and whether the State will actually be able to prove (1) that the offense actually took place, and (2) that you were the one to commit it, at trial. You attorney should go over this information with you and inform you of your best and worst-case scenarios (such as your maximum sentencing exposure if you lose at trial). After discussing all this with your attorney and making an informed decision on how you want to proceed, your attorney will then use the information that is negative to the State’s case to either:

  • Try to negotiate a plea deal to a less serious offense and/or for a lesser sentence (if that is what you want), or
  • File pretrial motions asking the court to suppress (i.e. throw out) certain evidence, such as unconstitutional searches and/or seizures, or incriminating statements you made, depending on the circumstances. If after a hearing your attorney wins these motions and succeeds in suppressing the adverse evidence, and there is no remaining evidence against you, the State is forced to dismiss your case. If there is still some evidence against you and the State thinks they can still prove each element of the offense to a jury, it will usually proceed to trial.
    • In the event that there are no potential pretrial motions, you can still proceed to trial. There are defenses that exist at trial that have nothing to do with suppression issues, such as self-defense, defense of others, diminished capacity, duress, coercion, insanity, and lack of jurisdiction. In addition, even if you do not have a specific defense, the State still has to prove its case to an impartial jury of your peers beyond a reasonable doubt!

Remember in all of this that you never have to prove your innocence. The burden is on the State of North Carolina to prove to the jury that you committed each and every required element of the charge.

If you plead guilty, or are convicted by a jury after pleading not guilty, the judge will impose your sentence. However, the judge is restricted in what type of sentence they can give you by the North Carolina Structured Sentencing Act.

North Carolina Structured Sentencing

North Carolina uses a felony sentencing system that looks at your prior criminal history level, the class of felony, and any aggravating or mitigating factors.


Felony Classifications in North Carolina from most serious to least serious, with examples of offenses from these categories:

NOTE: The ranges below vary so drastically because they represent the absolute minimum sentence for a mitigated range sentence for someone with no criminal history, all the way up to the maximum aggravated range sentence for someone with the worst possible criminal history.

NOTE: Note: Class B1 through Class E sex offenses that require registration on the Sex Offender Registry have their own maximums that are higher than those applicable for other Class B1 through E felonies.


Class A offenses are deemed the most serious. They include murder in the first degree, felony murder, and the unlawful use of a nuclear, biological or chemical weapon of mass destruction. The maximum penalty for this type of offense is life in prison or death.


Along with Class A, other high-level felonies include Class B1 or B2, Class C, and Class D. Examples of offenses high-level felonies in these classes of felony include second degree murder, first and second degree rape, many other different types of sexual offenses and armed robbery.


Prison Sentences

Felony Classes A-D

Class A felony: death, or life with or without parole. Class B1 felony: 144 months to life without parole. Class B2 felony: 94 to 483 months. Class C felony: 44 to 231 months.


includes Class E, F or G offenses. Punishments for these crimes vary widely with some defendants receiving intensive and prolonged probation and others receiving long prison sentences. Much of it depends on your criminal history and any aggravating or mitigating circumstances that may be present. Drug trafficking crimes in this category carry mandatory minimum jail sentences.

Mid-Level Felonies

Other examples of mid-level felonies include second degree arson, assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, second degree burglary, and possession of firearm by felon.


Prison Sentences


Class E felony: 15 to 88 months Class F felony: 10 to 59 months Class G felony: 8 to 47 months


Class H and I offenses do not carry mandatory jail time unless you are convicted of a Class H felony and have the highest level of prior criminal history. Often, probation, house arrest, community service or substance abuse counseling is imposed.

Low-Level Felonies

Depending on whether it is a Class H or I felony, and on your criminal history, the judge may have the option of sentencing you to a term of imprisonment, but is not required to do so. Class I offenses are the least serious. They include possession of more than 1.5 ounces of marijuana, financial transaction card theft, forgery, and breaking or entering a motor vehicle.


Prison Sentences


Class H felony: 4 to 25 months Class I felony: 3 to 12 months

Obviously, the processes of being both charged and/or convicted and sentence of a felony in North Carolina are extremely complex. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at PRJ Law are passionate about leaving no stone unturned in defending the accused. Contact PRJ Law today for a customized evaluation of your case and to receive peace of mind about your options.




If you are facing felony charges, you need an experienced defense criminal attorney to find the holes in the prosecutors case.