Almost all North Carolina Misdemeanor Cases begin in district court. For some counties, these cases start in ‘Disposition Court,’ while other counties will simply begin misdemeanor cases in regular district court. Disposition Court is a court where the District Attorneys try to resolve those cases which can be quickly disposed of, normally by a guilty plea. There are no trials in Disposition Court, so either the case will be plead out or continued to another date. If the case does end up going to trial, it will be set in regular district court.
Normally, North Carolina Misdemeanor Cases will take between 1 and 4 months to resolve depending on how they are handled. In most instances, the State will offer the Defendant a plea deal or in instances of first-time offenders offer a deferral agreement. In those particular instances, it can take less time to resolve the case. If, however, the case is for trial or the Defendant is trying to obtain a better deal, the case may take longer.
A plea deal is where the State asks the Defendant to plead guilty to a lesser crime, or a fewer number of charges then the Defendant originally faced, in exchange for the Defendant giving up his or her right to a trial. A deferral agreement is where the the State and/or Judge sets certain requirements that must be met during a set period of time, 6 or 12 months. The requirements normally include community service, restitution (paying the victim for damages) if necessary, and perhaps classes like anger management or substance abuse assessments. Additionally, during that period, the Defendant can not receive any other charges or the agreement may be voided and he or she will be required to come back to court and face the original charges. If the Defendant completes all the requirements and stays out of legal trouble during the allotted time period, the original charge will be dropped.
In instances where the facts are not strong for the State, and the Defendant wants to have a trial, the case will take more time. Normally, each side is permitted several ‘continuances’ before the judge will mark the case as ‘last.’ A continuance is where either the District Attorney or the Defendant asks the court to set a new court date for the case, normally 4 to 6 weeks out. When the judge marks the case as ‘last,’ that means that at the next court date the judge expects both parties to be prepared to resolve the case, whether that means having the trial, accepting a plea deal, or having the charges dismissed. The good news is, the longer the case drags out, the better it normally is for the Defendant. If several months have passed from the date of the alleged offense, the memory of the State’s witnesses will not be as strong as they would be if the case was tried within a month of the alleged crime. Additionally, it could also mean that a State’s witness has moved, or the police officer has relocated or retired. In these instances, the State will have a harder time proving their case.
If the charges are dropped with prejudice, that will be the end of the case against the Defendant on these charges. There is the possibility the charges could be dropped without prejudice, meaning the Defendant could be recharged on the same crimes, though that is not very common with North Carolina Misdemeanors.
If the Defendant is found not guilty by the judge in District court, that will be the end of the case against the Defendant for these charges. The State does not have the right to appeal a not guilty verdict to Superior court.
If the Defendant is found guilty, he or she has an automatic right to appeal their case to Superior court. In North Carolina, everyone has a right to a jury trial for misdemeanor or felony charges. Therefore, if you are found guilty in District Court you have a right to appeal to Superior court. The appeal is “de novo” meaning the Superior case is “new” and tried with no regards to what occurred or what was heard during the district court trial. Obviously, an appeal will take longer then just a couple of months to ultimately resolve the case.
These are only a few considerations when facing a North Carolina Misdemeanor Charge. Having a quality Criminal Defense Lawyer Raleigh or Criminal Defense Lawyer Durham in your corner is one of the best things you can do when charged. Contact Raleigh Criminal Defense Attorney M. Moseley Matheson at 919-335-5291 today for your FREE CONSULTATION!LINKS:
- North Carolina Criminal Defense
- North Carolina Misdemeanor Crimes
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