Living in Charlotte has its perks. It's a banker's haven -- think Wells Fargo and Bank of America. It's a foodie haven -- think Carolina style barbecue. It's a football haven. Think Carolina Panthers. With all these distractions, it's easy to forget that sometimes residents of the "Queen City" have to face the realities of life such as getting arrested. The North Carolina criminal justice system can be a maze of twists and turns, exceedingly complicated, and usually never pleasant. But being armed with information can make the process a little more manageable.
Here is some general information about what to expect in typical Charlotte criminal cases.
I Need a Lawyer. Where Can I Find One in Mecklenburg County?
First things, first. Since you'll be dealing with the Charlotte courts, you may wish to consult with a lawyer. You might distrust lawyers. Maybe you can't stand them. Still, sometimes they are necessary. You can hire a Charlotte criminal defense lawyer or ask for the public defender.
If you've been arrested in Charlotte for a misdemeanor and/or felony, it was likely by one of the following members of law enforcement: the Charlotte Police Department, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff, or the State Highway Patrol.
The officer either personally witnessed a crime or a witness it reported. The officer might have a warrant, but they don't always need one. You'll be arrested and read your Miranda rights. Next, the officer will write a report and submit it to the Mecklenburg district attorney's office. The D.A. will decide what charges, if any, to bring against you in court.
Get Me Out of Jail
After being arrested, you or a loved one will have be booked and either released with a promise to appear at a later date or you have to post a bond.
If you or someone you know was arrested and in custody, they are likely at the Mecklenburg County Jail. If you are trying to find an inmate, the count has a useful inmate locator page.
Criminal Laws and Penalties
North Carolina's Penal Code is quite detailed, as you can see by the state's list of statutory offenses.
Criminal offenses are broken down into the following categories, ranked from most serious to less serious:
Misdemeanors might be considered less serious than felonies, but take note, a conviction or guilty plea can have consequences on your career, your educational opportunities, and your freedom.
Typical Charlotte misdemeanors include drug possession, assault, stalking, certain traffic offenses, threats, some domestic violence, and Driving While Impaired (DWI) offenses.
North Carolina misdemeanors are further classified into four classes. Class A1 is the most serious and Class 3 being the least.
- Maximum penalty: 150 days in jail and a discretionary fine.
- Examples: Assault with a deadly weapon, assault inflicting serious injury, assault on a female or a government employee, violation of a restraining order, and sexual battery.
- Maximum penalty: 120 days in jail and a discretionary fine.
- Examples: Possession of drug paraphernalia, larceny, possession of stolen goods, damaging real or personal property, communicating threats, and prostitution.
- Maximum penalty: 60 days in jail and a $1000 fine.
- Examples: Simple assault, disorderly conduct, resisting a police officer, and carrying a concealed weapon.
- Maximum penalty: 20 days in jail and a $200 fine.
- Examples: Simple possession of marijuana, theft in a store, and city code violations.
The state of North Carolina uses a structured sentencing grid to determine the sentence range for any felony offense. The state offers useful pages for individuals to look up a potential sentence for any individual felony. Still, structured sentencing is very complex. There are both statutes and caselaw that control its application. It is explained in detail within a section of the North Carolina court website.
A Class I felony, the least serious type of felony, carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in jail. A Class A felony, the most serious type of felony, carries a maximum penalty of either life in prison or death.
Examples of Charlotte felonies include as arson, burglary, armed robbery, fraud and voluntary manslaughter. Many of the highest-level felonies involve sexual violence, such as statutory or forcible rape.
A Final Word About Charlotte Criminal Cases
Remember that criminal cases can have a serious, lasting impact on your life. You have options and rights. Anyone charged with an offense may be wise to at least consider consulting a Charlotte criminal defense lawyer for more information.