COVID-19 is touching the lives of every American and in Greensboro, it’s changing life in yet another way. As coronavirus cases surged over 500, a stay-at-home order was put in place at the end of March. Residents caught violating this county-wide order can be charged with a misdemeanor.
Here’s what you need to know about North Carolina misdemeanors and the legal price you may pay for breaking the current stay-at-home order.
Understanding Greensboro’s Stay-At-Home Order
The stay-at-home order, also sometimes called sheltering-in-place, that is now in effect restricts the reasons you can leave your house.
You can still go to the grocery store as needed, you can still go to the pharmacy to pick up medications and go to medical appointments. You can even pick up food at a restaurant to take back to your home or go for a walk – as long as you practice social distancing.
However, if you are stopped when you’re out for an unapproved activity under the current advisory, then you can be charged with a misdemeanor during this COVID-19 lockdown.
Classes of Misdemeanors in North Carolina
There are four classes of misdemeanors in North Carolina and each imposes its own range of penalties. These misdemeanor classes are Class A1, Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Class A1 Misdemeanor
This is the most serious misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of up to 150 days in jail as well as a fine. The crimes in this category include assault with serious bodily injury, assault on a government employee, assault with a deadly weapon, and violation of a restraining order.
Class 1 Misdemeanor
This misdemeanor can result in up to 120 days in jail as well as a fine. The most common Class 1 misdemeanors include larceny, possession of stolen goods, damaging personal property, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Class 2 Misdemeanor
For conviction of a Class 2 misdemeanor, there is a penalty of up to 60 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000. This class includes crimes such as resisting an officer of the law, disorderly conduct, carrying a concealed weapon, and assault.
Class 3 Misdemeanor
The least serious type of misdemeanor (and what you are likely to get cited for when breaking a stay-at-home order), this can result in up to 20 days in jail and a fine up to $200. Other Class 3 misdemeanors include crimes such as possession of marijuana, city code violations, and second-degree trespass.
Facing Misdemeanor Charges in North Carolina
When charged with a misdemeanor in North Carolina, your case goes before a district court judge. There are many options for people accused of misdemeanors. You can:
- Have an attorney negotiate a plea deal for a lesser charge
- Have an attorney try to have the charges dismissed
- Plead not guilty and request a trial
If you don’t have a criminal record, then you may be able to negotiate community service in exchange for the dismissal of your case
North Carolina’s Statute of Limitations
In North Carolina, there’s a statute of limitations on the prosecution of a misdemeanor case. This is a period of time where the state has to begin criminal prosecution of charges against a person, starting at the time the crime occurs. Most misdemeanors have a two-year statute of limitations.
Ultimately, an experienced North Carolina attorney can help you decide your best path when facing misdemeanor charges. Hopefully, this time around, it won’t come to that.
While misdemeanors may not carry stiffest of penalties in North Carolina, it’s still important to follow the stay-at-home order in effect — not only to avoid penalties, but for your own personal health and safety, and for the health of your community.