What Is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?

Facing criminal charges of any kind can be scary and confusing. You might be concerned about your freedom, your job, your reputation, and more. It’s important to note that not all criminal charges are the same, and they can vary significantly depending on the nature and severity of the charge.

If you have been arrested or charged with a crime in North Carolina, it’s important to understand the type of charges you’re facing and the potential consequences. Below, the Raleigh criminal defense lawyers at Kurtz & Blum explore the differences between misdemeanor and felony offenses and how you can defend your rights after being charged.

What Are the Key Differences Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?

Although felonies are generally understood as more “serious” crimes than misdemeanors, the reality is slightly more nuanced. The key difference between a misdemeanor and a felony in North Carolina is the potential penalties for conviction.

When you are convicted of a misdemeanor in North Carolina, the harshest punishment you can face is 150 days of jail time. However, a conviction for a felony offense can result in years behind bars or even the death penalty.

Felony crimes in North Carolina are divided into ten classifications, with A being the most serious: A, B1, B2, C, D, E, F, G, H, and I.

Types of Misdemeanor Offenses

Misdemeanor offenses are divided into four classifications in North Carolina, including:

  • Class 3 misdemeanors – The least-serious category of misdemeanors, which includes offenses such as simple drug possession charges and concealment of merchandise, is a Class 3 misdemeanor. Maximum penalties for Class 3 misdemeanors include $200 in fines, barring certain exceptions, and 20 days in jail.
  • Class 2 misdemeanors – Examples of Class 2 misdemeanors, which are considered more serious than Class 3 misdemeanors, include simple assault and indecent exposure. Maximum penalties include 60 days in jail and $1,000 in fines.
  • Class 1 misdemeanors – Examples of Class 1 misdemeanors include larceny under $1,000 and driving with a revoked license. Maximum penalties include 120 days in jail and fines set at the judge’s discretion.
  • Class A1 misdemeanors – The most serious category of misdemeanors, which includes offenses such as sexual battery and assault with a deadly weapon, is a Class A1 misdemeanor. Maximum penalties include up to 150 days in jail and discretionary fines.

What to Do If You Are Charged With a Misdemeanor or Felony

If you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense in North Carolina, you can protect your legal rights by:

  • Exercising your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent
  • Remaining calm and polite when speaking to authorities
  • Writing down everything you remember about your case, including details of your arrest and the names and badge numbers of your arresting officers
  • Making a list of witnesses who may be able to testify on your behalf
  • Contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney in Raleigh as soon as possible
  • Allowing your Raleigh criminal lawyer to handle all case-related communications on your behalf
  • Working with your NC criminal lawyer to develop a strong defense and attending all court hearings as needed

How Kurtz & Blum Can Help

The Raleigh criminal defense attorneys of Kurtz & Blum are prepared to handle all types of criminal cases throughout North Carolina. Contact us today for an initial consultation to discuss the details of your charges with our trusted team.

Seth A. Blum is a graduate of Tufts University and Duke Law School. He also holds a Master’s Degree from the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy Studies. Seth is an experienced trial attorney who is licensed and has tried cases in both North Carolina State and Federal Courts. Seth is an Adjunct Professor of Trial Advocacy at the University of North Carolina School of Law. He regularly teaches other lawyers advanced trial techniques.