Being accused of a crime, especially if it is a serious crime like fraud or murder, is something that must be taken seriously. Criminal law is very black-and-white when it comes to dealing justice: everyone is considered innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. That last phrase is very important because it means that even someone who is genuinely innocent can be on the receiving end of a jail sentence if the prosecution convinces the court that he or she is indeed guilty of the crime.
North Carolina's criminal law follows the same procedure and it only differs with other states' criminal laws on a few things. Like any other criminal law, North Carolina classifies a crime as either a misdemeanor (minor crime) or a felony (serious crime). Unlike other states, misdemeanors and felonies can be classified even further into several classes. These classes dictate the severity of the punishment to be administered by the court, from a lifetime sentence (Class A) to a few years in prison (Class J).
However, misdemeanors can be elevated into felonies depending on certain circumstances. In North Carolina, for instance, assault can be considered a felony if the crime was committed with a deadly weapon and the victim was seriously injured. Otherwise, the crime is considered as a misdemeanor, which might land the defendant with less than a year in prison and several fines to be paid.