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Does North Carolina have a “three strikes law?”

On Behalf of | Mar 7, 2022 | Criminal Defense

It is common to hear about “three-strike rules.” If someone has three convictions on their criminal record, then they could face even more severe penalties. The ideas of these laws are common across the country, but they are different for each state.

Technically, North Carolina has such a law, but it is known as the “habitual felon” law. Here is what you should know.

What does the “habitual felon” law say?

The law states that a habitual felon is someone who was convicted of or pled guilty to three felony offenses. In North Carolina, the habitual felon laws mean the penalties individuals might face increase significantly.

The penalties depend on the specific charges an individual faces. However, the general rule is that the penalties in these cases:

  • Multiply to match the sentence for a felony that is four classes higher than the underlying charge – or the charge individuals currently face
  • Cannot surpass the penalties of a Class C felony

This can be a complicated issue, especially since the rules may vary depending on the type of crime. For example, there are different rules for a violent habitual felon, pertaining only to violent crimes and repeated offenses of that nature. On top of that, there is a long list of felony classes that could influence how courts calculate the penalties for habitual felons.

Considering the wide range of felony classes

North Carolina’s felony classes range from Class A to Class I. There are several offenses included in each of those classes. Regarding the range of felony classes, here is how the habitual felon rules might work:

  1. An individual’s criminal record includes felony charges of possession of a controlled substance and possession of a firearm on school property, which are both Class I felonies.
  2. Now, they face another Class I conviction of drug possession. Per the habitual felon laws, the penalties would match those of a Class E felony.

Understanding habitual felon laws can be helpful. However, it also highlights why it is critical to seek an experienced criminal defense attorney when facing any type of felony charges.