Like all states, North Carolina classifies a crime either as a felony or a misdemeanor, with the former generally encompassing more serious crimes than the latter. Unlike other states, however, North Carolina further classifies felonies and misdemeanors into distinct classes and each class has a corresponding punishment. Committing a Class I felony could lead to community service while committing a Class A felony could result in life imprisonment or the death penalty.
Moreover, crimes are also judged according to the defendant’s prior record level (i.e. previous offenses) so that he or she can serve one punishment or another. For example, as of September 2013, committing a Class E felony in the state could result in an intermediate sentence (like community service), provided that the defendant has a prior record level of 1 or 2. A level of 3 to 6 will automatically land an active punishment (like 15 to 63 months in prison).
The court also considers the defendant’s disposition to see if the crime he or she committed was aggravated or mitigated. A felony is considered aggravated if it is proven that the defendant acted with malicious intent, while it is considered mitigated if the person, for example, only acted out believing his or her actions were legal. Depending on the defendant’s disposition, the court can extend the prison time and/or include more penalties such as fines.