Felony Defense Attorney In Raleigh, NC
Few incidents can have a more profound effect on a person’s life than a felony conviction. Convicted felons often struggle to obtain the same educational and employment opportunities as those individuals without a record. Furthermore, convicted felons often lose important legal rights such as the right to vote, the right to serve on a jury, the right to possess a firearm, and the right to obtain certain licenses. When one of his clients is charged with a felony, Chris works diligently to avoid a felony conviction.
Most felony cases begin in Courtroom 301 of the Wake County Justice Center, which is District Court. Chris can resolve felony cases in District Court when he convinces the District Attorney’s Office to dismiss the case, when he obtains an offer for a deferral or a conditional discharge, when he secures a reduction to a misdemeanor, and when he pleads to a low-level felony. Depending on the client’s record, the charge, the nature of the defense, and the surrounding circumstances, Chris most often will resolve felony cases in District Court either by misdemeanor plea or by conditional discharge. When the State reduces a felony charge to a misdemeanor, the Defendant typically ends up on supervised probation, and in some circumstances, the Defendant may serve a short jail sentence. A conditional discharge involves the Defendant pleading guilty to a felony and completing a significant amount of community service during a one-year period of supervised probation. If the Defendant complies with the terms of the conditional discharge, the Court will dismiss the case, at which point it may be possible to file a Petition for Expunction to erase any record that the Defendant was even charged. While Chris and his clients always take felony cases very seriously, Chris often can resolve the case in a way that will not have a lasting effect on his clients lives. Felony cases often move quicker than misdemeanor cases, so if you are charged with a felony, please contact Chris as soon as possible to set up a free initial consultation.
What is a felony in North Carolina?
As a general rule, a felony is an offense for which the defendant could serve a maximum possible sentence of one year in prison or more. In North Carolina, the general statutes specifically indicate whether any given offense is a misdemeanor or a felony. The general statutes also indicate the offense level for each felony charge. The offense classes range from Class I felonies to Class A felonies. Class A felonies are reserved for the most serious offenses like first degree murder. Class I felonies, however, are the least serious felony offenses, such as Possession of a Schedule I Controlled Substance and Possession of More than One and a Half Ounces of Marijuana.
What is the punishment for a felony conviction in Raleigh, North Carolina?
A court cannot sentence a defendant in a felony case unless the defendant pleads guilty or the defendant is found guilty at a trial. Upon a plea of guilty or a verdict of guilty, the presiding judge will issue a felony sentence. Felony sentences range from probation to the death penalty. The possible sentences for any given defendant depend initially on two factors: the class of the felony, and the defendant’s prior record level.
As discussed above, felonies range from Class I to Class A. Class A felonies result in life without parole or the death penalty, while judges have the option to sentence defendants to probation on any Class I felony conviction. Additionally, depending on the Defendant’s record, the presiding judge may issue a probationary sentence Class E, F, G, and H felony cases.
The defendant’s criminal history is also important in determining the potential consequences of a felony conviction. To determine a defendant’s prior record level, prosecutors, judges, and criminal defense attorneys review the defendant’s criminal history. Defendants with numerous prior convictions and prior convictions for more serious offenses will have higher prior record levels.
Once criminal defense attorneys determine the class of felony and the prior record level, they can determine the range of potential punishments for the charged offense. In making this determination, lawyers rely on the felony sentencing chart for North Carolina. A copy of this chart is available here. If you are facing felony charges in Raleigh, NC, contact our office today to schedule a free consultation during which you can learn about the possible and likely punishments for the charged offenses.
How can I get my felony case dismissed in Wake County?
Experienced criminal defense attorneys in Wake County will attempt to secure a dismissal of felony charges in several different ways.
- If the facts of the case suggest that the defendant is innocent, it is possible to convince the District Attorney’s Office to take a voluntary dismissal in the case. Essentially, the defense attorney demonstrates the defendant’s innocence through telling his or her side of the story and possibly providing additional information or evidence. While this outcome is ideal for a felony case, it is not easy to convince an assistant district attorney in Raleigh to just dismiss a felony charge. Given the right circumstances, however, it is possible.
- Another way to achieve a dismissal in a felony case in Wake County is through a deferral. A deferral generally is only available for first-time offenders. A deferred prosecution typically involves an admission of guilt where the defendant agrees to do something in exchange for the District Attorney’s Office agreeing to dismiss the case. As long as the defendant, completes the requirements of the deferral and does not obtain new criminal charges during the deferral period, the State of North Carolina will dismiss the case. Prosecutors often require either community service or certain classes to earn dismissals in felony cases in Wake County. The community service obligation usually ranges from 150 to 225 hours. Some of the classes that defendants complete to earn dismissals include substance abuse, anger management, and batterer’s treatment programs. These classes and programs can range from approximately 16 to 40 hours. While experienced criminal defense attorneys will try to avoid the time, money, and effort associated with these programs, this method of achieving a dismissal represents a favorable outcome because the charges are eligible for immediate and automatic expungment upon dismissal.
- As a third option, experienced criminal defense attorneys in Raleigh may negotiate a conditional discharge on their client’s behalf. A conditional discharge is similar to a deferral because the defendant must complete community service or classes to earn a dismissal. There are a couple important differences, however, that make a deferral a better option than a conditional discharge. First, although a defendant must admit guilt for a deferral, he or she does not actually enter a guilty plea. In contrast, for a conditional discharge, the defendant must enter a plea of guilty that the clerk of court will record. The second difference relates to probation. A defendant on a deferral is not on probation, but the court will place a defendant on supervised probation, usually for one year, while completing the conditional discharge. Overall, both deferrals and conditional discharges offer good options for defendants because they achieve the two ultimate goals for criminal cases: dismissal and expungment.
- The fourth way to obtain a dismissal in a felony case in Wake County is through pursuing a defense. Criminal defense attorneys pursue defenses in two general ways. The first method involves pretrial motions. These pretrial motions usually focus on violations of the defendant’s constitutional rights. For example, the law enforcement officer did not have enough evidence to stop a vehicle or to conduct a search. If a judge grants a defendant’s pretrial motion, the court will either suppress important evidence or dismiss the case altogether. Suppressed evidence is not admissible at a trial, and therefore, it often results in the District Attorney’s Office voluntarily dismissing the case because they cannot present the necessary evidence such as a firearm or drugs. If the defense is not a pretrial motion, then it focuses on one or more elements of the charged offense. At a trial, the District Attorney’s Office must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt. Although felony trials may occur in front of a judge, the overwhelming majority of felony trials are jury trials. If you think that law enforcement violated your constitutional rights, or if you think the State of North Carolina cannot prove its case against you, contact an experienced trial attorney who will help you effectively pursue these defenses.
If my felony case is not dismissed, what are the other possible outcomes?
If a criminal defense attorney cannot negotiate a resolution that results in a dismissal of a felony case, then he or she may seek to negotiate a reduction to a misdemeanor offense. Misdemeanor reductions are common when the defendant has no prior felony charges. Reductions to misdemeanors also are more likely on lower-level felonies. As a general rule, if the District Attorney’s Office reduces a felony to a misdemeanor, they will require that the Defendant be placed on supervised probation. In some cases, however, the defense attorney may negotiate a resolution that only involves unsupervised probation, or court costs and a fine.
When the District Attorney’s Office does not offer a path to a dismissal, and refuses to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor, then the parties often will negotiate a specific resolution to the case. In lower-level felony cases where the Defendant does not have a significant criminal history, this resolution frequently involves felony supervised probation without any jail or prison time. When the defendant is charged with a serious felony though, the negotiation may focus on the length of the sentence. For example, the assistant district attorney may insist on a felony conviction and a prison sentence, but also agree that the defendant will serve the minimum sentence allowed under the law.
When the criminal defense attorney and the assistant district attorney cannot agree on a sentence, the defendant has two options. First, the defendant can pursue a defense, as discussed above, which may result in dismissal of the case or a verdict of not guilty at trial. Second, the defense attorney can plead the case open, which means that the judge will decide the sentence. Although pleading a case open involves a more uncertain outcome, an experienced criminal defense attorney can potentially achieve a better result than the sentence to which the assistant district attorney would have agreed. Please contact our office to discuss these issues and the potential outcomes for your felony case in Wake County.
What are the common felony offenses in Raleigh, North Carolina?
In North Carolina, there are over 600 different felony offenses. Some of these offenses occur frequently while others are rarely charged at all. Please review the information below that indicates some common felony charges for each class of felony. The list also includes the maximum possible punishment for each felony class.
Class A Felonies: punishable only by either life without parole or the death penalty:
- First degree murder
- Murder of an unborn child
- Use of a weapon of mass destruction
Class B1 Felonies: maximum punishment is life without parole:
- Second degree murder
- First degree forcible rape
- Statutory rape of a child by an adult
- First degree statutory rape
Class B2 Felonies: maximum punishment is 484 months in prison:
- Second degree murder that is not intentional
- Human trafficking of a minor
- Child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury
- Second offense of felony death by motor vehicle
Class C Felonies: maximum punishment is 293 months in prison:
- Second degree forcible rape
- Second degree forcible sex offense
- Kidnapping in the first degree
- Human trafficking of an adult
- Embezzlement of $100,000 or more
- Obtaining property of $100,000 or more by false pretenses
- Manufacture of methamphetamine
- Assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury
Class D Felonies: maximum punishment is 204 months in prison:
- Voluntary Manslaughter
- Felony death by motor vehicle
- Burglary in the first degree
- Arson in the first degree
- Robbery with a dangerous weapon (armed robbery)
- Child abuse inflicting serious injury
- Trafficking 10,000 or more pounds of marijuana
- Trafficking 400 or more grams of cocaine
Class E Felonies: maximum punishment is 88 months in prison:
- Second degree kidnapping
- Second degree sexual exploitation of a minor
- Assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury
- Assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill
- Assault with a firearm on law enforcement
- Selling or delivering a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school
- Discharging a weapon into an occupied property
Class F Felonies: maximum punishment is 59 months in prison:
- Felonious Restraint
- Taking indecent liberties with children
- Habitual impaired driving
- Involuntary manslaughter
- Assault inflicting serious bodily injury
Class G Felonies: maximum punishment is 47 months in prison:
- Common law robbery
- Forging or counterfeiting five or more documents or instruments
- Felon in possession of a firearm
- Second degree burglary
- Identity theft
- Sale of a controlled substance (Schedule I or II)
Class H Felonies: maximum potential punishment is 39 months in prison:
- Assault by strangulation
- Habitual larceny
- Habitual misdemeanor assault
- Possession of Stolen Goods
- Breaking or entering a building with felonious intent
- Larceny of property worth more than $1,000
- Embezzlement of less than $100,000
- Obtaining property worth less than $100,000 by false pretenses
- Hit and run from an accident involving an injury
- Sale of a controlled substance (Schedule III, IV, V, or VI)
- Possession with intent to sell or deliver cocaine
Class I Felonies: maximum potential punishment is 24 months in prison:
- Financial transaction card theft and fraud
- Possession with intent to sell or deliver marijuana
- Breaking or entering a motor vehicle
- Possession of cocaine
- Maintaining a dwelling or a motor vehicle for keeping or selling a controlled substance
- Uttering a forged paper or instrument
- Obtaining a controlled substance by fraud
How long will it take to resolve my felony case in Wake County?
Some felony cases are resolved quickly, even on the first or second court date, while others drag on for years. The most important factor affecting the timeline for a felony case in Wake County relates to whether or not the defendant is pursuing a defense. Defendant’s sometimes wait years for their jury trials to finally take place. If a Defendant is just pursuing a defense through a pretrial motion, then the case generally does not take as long.
Sometimes the defense attorney and the assistant district attorney need to obtain additional information and continue to negotiate. This process also can extend the time required to resolve a felony case. Deferrals and conditional discharges prolong the cases as well because they typically take at least one year to complete.
Overall, duration of a felony criminal case in Raleigh, NC depends on numerous factors. Criminal defense attorneys often will quickly resolve low level felonies where the defendant and the prosecutor negotiate a resolution. On the other hand, it may take significantly longer to resolve a serious felony case where the defendant is pursuing a defense. Contact our office for a consultation during which Chris will give you an idea of the timeline on your felony case in Wake County.