The legal process can be tricky and stressful for first time misdemeanor offenders in North Carolina. Some of the most common charges we encounter in our Raleigh criminal law practice involve drug and alcohol related offenses. This can be a very scary and stressful time for for first time offenders and especially when they hear the terms, “Misdemeanor” or “Maximum Penalty of 150 days in jail.” However, one of the things that we really convey to worried parents, who call on behalf of their son or daughter, is that North Carolina is a state that likes to look out for first time offenders. The Tarheel State will offer programs that upon completion, give the defendant a chance of dismissal upon successful completion of a recommended program from the District Attorney’s office as long as they are able to complete all requirements of that program.
But before we get into how the process works, let’s examine the types of punishment that an offender could face if they receive a Misdemeanor charge. Here are the sentences according to the North Carolina General Statute:
*Class 3 Misdemeanor: A maximum penalty of twenty days in jail and a $200.00 fine. Class 3 misdemeanors include offenses such as simple possession of marijuana, concealment of goods, and city code violations.
*Class 2 Misdemeanor: A maximum penalty of sixty days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Class 2 misdemeanors include offenses such as simple assault, disorderly conduct, resisting a police office, and carrying a concealed weapon.
*Class 1 Misdemeanor: A maximum penalty of 120 days in jail and a discretionary fine. Class 1 misdemeanors include offenses such as possession of drug paraphernalia, larceny, possession of stolen goods, damaging real or personal property, communicating threats, and prostitution.
*Class A1 Misdemeanor: The most serious type of misdemeanor offenses, carries a maximum of 150 days in jail and a discretionary fine. Class A1 misdemeanors include offenses such as 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.
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Obviously North Carolina takes misdemeanors very seriously. But as previously said, North Carolina does offer diversion programs as a resource that allows offenders a chance to get their first offense charges dismissed. Below you will find the criteria for the 3 levels of diversion programs offered by the Wake County District Attorney’s Office that can prove to be very beneficial to first time offenders. According to guidelines posted by the Wake County District Attorney’s office of North Carolina:
1st Offender Diversion Drug/Alcohol (Level 1)
No prior diversion of any kind
No prior criminal convictions
No other pending charges
Process: Your case is deferred (continued) for SIX months and in that time you will need to complete 15 hours of drug/alcohol classes or a substance abuse assessment and treatment recommendations (15 hour minimum). Whichever is offered, the defendant will need to pay $250.00 in program fees and $180 court costs.
Drug Diversion (Level 2)
No prior DRUG deferral program being used
May have only ONE prior Misdemeanor Conviction, except: DWI, No prior drug deferral, No prior conviction, no other violent or abusive in nature charges, no felony convictions, and if over 21 yrs. old- no convictions in the past 5 years.
Process: Your case is deferred for ONE year, substance abuse assessment and treatment recommendations (15 hour minimum), 50 hrs. of community service, random drug screens ($30), and $250.00 program fees and court costs.
Drug Diversion (Level 3)
Only offered for those who are 21 yrs. old and under, and who are already enrolled in 1st Offender Diversion, who pick up another new drug drug/alcohol charge. This would not apply to Level 2 and does not apply for more than one charge. This would be a new deferral agreement for a term of one year. The good news is that both cases will be dismissed together if the client is successful in completion.
Process: New pending case is deferred for ONE year, the old deferral is to be continued to the new compliance date, there will be random drug screens- each costing $30.00, Substance Abuse Assessment and recommended treatment, and $250.00 program fee and court costs.
We strongly suggest contacting an attorney to find out your options and to make sure that these charges you are facing are handled in the appropriate manner. At Matheson & Associates we always offer free consultations to potential clients and walk them through the legal process.