The difference between a felony and a misdemeanor conviction could affect your right to vote, to own firearms, and even your ability to get a job in North Carolina.
So, what determines whether a crime is a felony or a misdemeanor? In general, it is determined by the severity of the act, but there are all kinds of factors. For example, if someone has a clean record and commits a crime, they may be more likely to face misdemeanor charges than someone who has a record.
In this post, we’re going to focus on a common crime that is charged at both the misdemeanor and felony level: theft – otherwise known as “larceny” in the North Carolina statutes.
What makes theft a felony in our state?
Factors That Determine Felony Theft in North Carolina
Stealing Over $1,000 Worth of Merchandise
The severity of a theft charge depends on the value of what was allegedly stolen (or attempted to be stolen). If the value of the merchandise is $1,000 or less, offenders will be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor unless other factors come into play. Once the value hits over $1,000, however, the charges are increased to a class H felony.
To put that in perspective, stealing a $900 diamond necklace won’t cost you the right to own a firearm, but if you add on a pair of earrings at $101, you risk becoming a felon and face far more severe penalties.
The charge will also stand if you legally obtained goods that you know were stolen. So, if your friend hands you a gift and you know they stole it, you can be charged with a crime in North Carolina.
Breaking and Entering
There are many places where a person can commit theft: the mall, a store, someone’s house, and so on. The way you enter these places could have a big effect on your case.
Breaking and entering with the intent to commit theft is always a class H felony in North Carolina. It does not matter if you broke into a house to steal a $1 bookmark or a $2,000 collection of designer shoes.
Stealing Motor Fuel or Firearms
While the value of the stolen goods generally determines the severity of your case, this does not apply where motor fuel and firearms are concerned. Stealing firearms in North Carolina is a Class H felony and stealing motor fuel is a Class F felony.
Stealing Company Property
If you are an employee and steal company property, you will be charged with a felony. This type of theft is often charged as embezzlement.
The value of the goods will determine the severity of the charges. Stealing less than $100,000 of company property is a class H felony. Stealing more than $100,000 of company property is a class C felony. This is a very serious offense and can put you behind bars for many years.
Understanding How NC Theft Law Works Is the First Step in Fighting Back
A charge is not a conviction. You can still walk away from your case without a felony or misdemeanor on your record with the right defense strategy.
Knowing which strategy is most likely to help in your case, however, depending on the specific circumstances and what you were charged with. Sometimes law enforcement officials make mistakes or get greedy and try to over-charge someone.
The best way to know if something like that is happening in your case is to work with an experienced NC criminal lawyer. With the right defense, you may be able to reduce your felony charge to a misdemeanor – or even get it dropped or dismissed altogether.