What Is A Habitual Offender In NC?

Criminal man with handcuffs being interviewed in interrogation room

Habitual offender laws, also known as three-strikes laws, impose additional penalties on people convicted of multiple crimes. A person with a prior criminal conviction and who is charged with another crime faces the possibility of harsher penalties just because of their criminal history.

In North Carolina, a person is considered a habitual offender if they have been convicted of three felony crimes. Specific penalties depend on the nature of the crime and increase with each conviction.

NC Habitual Offender Statute

North Carolina’s habitual offender law, also known as the habitual felon law, states that “Any person who has been convicted of or pled guilty to three felony offenses in any federal court or state court in the United States or combination thereof is declared to be an habitual felon and may be charged as a status offender pursuant to this Article.”

For purposes of the statute, a felony offense is defined as:

  1. An offense that is a felony under the laws of this State.
  2. An offense that is a felony under the laws of another state or sovereign that is substantially similar to an offense that is a felony in North Carolina, and to which a plea of guilty was entered, or a conviction was returned regardless of the sentence actually imposed.
  3. An offense that is a crime under the laws of another state or sovereign that does not classify any crimes as felonies if all of the following apply:
    1. The offense is substantially similar to an offense that is a felony in North Carolina.
    2. The offense may be punishable by imprisonment for more than a year in state prison.
    3. A plea of guilty was entered or a conviction was returned regardless of the sentence actually imposed.
  4. An offense that is a felony under federal law. Provided, however, that federal offenses relating to the manufacture, possession, sale and kindred offenses involving intoxicating liquors shall not be considered felonies for the purposes of this Article.

A person who is sentenced under North Carolina’s habitual felon law will receive a sentence at a level four classes higher than the principal felony for which they were convicted but no higher than a Class C felony, which is punishable by up to 231 months in prison.

If a person has committed multiple felonies before reaching the age of 18, any felony convictions before their 18th birthday are treated as a single felony under North Carolina’s habitual felon law.

Understanding North Carolina Habitual Offender Laws

Sentencing under North Carolina’s habitual felon law can be complicated. The rules vary based on the nature of both the current criminal charge and the specifics of the underlying felony convictions. For example, different rules apply if someone has prior convictions for violent felonies versus non-violent felony convictions. In addition, North Carolina has a long list of felony classes and the sentences for each, which makes every case unique.

While it is helpful to understand North Carolina habitual offender laws, how these laws apply to your unique situation can be incredibly complicated. With so much on the line, it is crucial that you work with an experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney.

The Stowe Law Firm, PLLC: Serious Representation for Serious Crimes

If you have a criminal history and have been charged with another crime, the stakes are high. You could face significant fines and penalties and the possibility of a lengthy jail sentence.

When you work with the Stowe Law Firm, PLLC, North Carolina criminal defense attorney Ryan Stowe will offer legal advice and support, evaluate your unique situation, and explain your options. He will critically analyze the prosecution’s evidence, mount an aggressive defense, and work with the prosecutor to try to negotiate a favorable resolution in your case.

Attorney Stowe will analyze your circumstances, carefully and thoroughly research the law that applies, and be a forceful advocate on your behalf. He will craft a customized defense strategy that accounts for the specifics of your case and the law that applies. When you appear in court, whether for a pre-trial conference or for trial, you will find that Mr. Stowe is meticulously prepared. He will identify inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case, call and question witnesses in your defense, and cross-examine any witnesses called by the prosecutor. He will present your case in the best possible light and argue for a reduction in charges, a reduced sentence, or outright dismissal of the case against you.

North Carolina criminal defense attorney Ryan Stowe has extensive experience defending people facing criminal charges in North Carolina. He is a fierce advocate for his clients and a staunch defender of their rights. The Stowe Law Firm is based in Salisbury, North Carolina, and proudly represents people in Rowan County, Mecklenburg County, Davidson County, Cabarrus County, and Stanly County.

Learn more about the cases we handle, then contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your situation and how we can help.