COVID-19 has become a part of the daily reality for people all over the world, including the day-to-day workings of the district attorneys in North Carolina.
That’s because Governor Cooper has expanded the enforcement of his COVID mask mandate and prosecutors around the state will now be responsible for prosecuting people who violate those orders.
The mask mandate states that those who do not wear masks in some situations can be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor. Here’s what you need to know about it.
The Structure of NC Misdemeanors
In North Carolina, the structure of misdemeanors means that no two people who are prosecuted for violating the mask order may face the exact same consequences.
That’s because your criminal record and other factors come into play under North Carolina’s sentencing structures.
Common Misdemeanor Crimes in North Carolina
Violating the mask mandate laws are a new misdemeanor charge in North Carolina, but there are many misdemeanor charges that are quite common. The most common in the state include:
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
- Simple assault
- Communicating threats
It’s these misdemeanors, and others like them, that have been ruled by the misdemeanor sentencing structure in the state. Under this structure, the penalties for each case are viewed individually and based on a variety of factors.
Sentencing for Misdemeanors in North Carolina
When someone is convicted of a misdemeanor in North Carolina, the court determines their sentence based on several factors. These factors include the class of the misdemeanor at hand and prior convictions.
The Misdemeanor Class
The court can impose a range of penalties depending on which class of misdemeanor the defendant was found guilty of. Classes of misdemeanors include:
For misdemeanors in this class, the penalty is one to 150 days or punishment (either active, intermediate, or community)
For misdemeanors of this class, the penalty is one to 120 of punishment
This misdemeanor class can result in one to 60 days of punishment
Misdemeanors of this class can result in one to 20 days of punishment
Anyone who is convicted of a misdemeanor offense in this state is categorized into one of three levels based on their prior convictions. These levels include:
This level is assigned when there is no previous conviction on the defendant’s criminal record.
This level is assigned when the defendant has one to four prior convictions.
This level is assigned when the defendant has five or more previous convictions.
The Sentence Range
Once all the factors for sentencing have been taken into account by the court, a sentence is imposed that will fall within the acceptable range for class and level. In North Carolina, each misdemeanor class has subclasses that correspond to prior conviction levels.
For example, a person who falls into the Level I prior conviction class due to being a first-time offender who has committed a Class 2 misdemeanor can spend up to one month of community punishment.
Someone else who has also committed a Class 2 misdemeanor but falls under Level III for prior convictions can face up to two months of active, intermediate, or community punishment. It’s up the discretion of the court.
What is Active, Intermediate, and Community Punishment?
The three ways that sentences can be carried out are active, intermediate, and community punishments, but what does that mean?
An active punishment is a jail sentence. Intermediate and community punishments allow for alternative penalties at the discretion of the judge overseeing the case. That can mean house arrest, probation, educational programs, or community service.
Fines Factor In
Misdemeanor crimes that allow for incarceration can also have fines attached to them. Courts have the ability to impose fines for misdemeanors, such as:
- Class A1 misdemeanors – Whatever amount the court finds appropriate
- Class 1 misdemeanors – Whatever amount the court find appropriate
- Class 2 misdemeanors – Fines can be imposed for as much as $1,000
- Class 3 misdemeanors – Fines can be imposed for as much as $200
Fines can be ordered in addition to any active, intermediate, or community penalties.
The Statute of Limitations
The court only has a limited amount of time that it can begin prosecution for a crime. This is called the statute of limitations, which begins to run when the crime is perpetrated.
Most misdemeanor crimes in North Carolina have a statute of limitations of two years. After that, you can no longer be prosecuted for the crime.
Understanding the misdemeanor sentencing structure in North Carolina can seem complicated, but it’s important to understand if you want to ensure your rights are protected should you violate the law.