Sentencing Guidelines for Breaking & Entering in North Carolina

Your past crimes can come back to haunt you in North Carolina.
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If you break into property that's not yours, such as someone's home, or simply walk through the door uninvited, you've committed a crime in North Carolina. Unlike with the sentencing structure in some other states, you can predict with relative certainty how long your punishment will last if convicted in the Tar Heel state. That's because the state has established sentencing guidelines that assign minimum and mandatory sentences based on the crime you commit, circumstances surrounding the crime and how many past convictions you have.


Breaking and Entering and Burglary Similar Crimes

If you break into or enter a building intending to commit a felony, such as rape, steal property, or terrorize or harm someone inside, this is breaking and entering in North Carolina - a Class H felony. (Ref 1, pg. 3 § 14-54) If you lack such intent, it's a Class 1 misdemeanor. (Ref 1, pg. 3 § 14-54) However, it becomes burglary if you commit the crime in someone's residence or room where they sleep. (Ref 1 § 14-51; Ref 2; Ref 8) If someone's home at the time, it's first degree burglary and a Class D felony; if no one's home, it's only second degree burglary and a Class G felony. (Ref 1 § 14-51 and § 14-52)


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Offender and Crime Placed Into Punishment Categories

When you're convicted, North Carolina law requires the court to consider both your crime and prior conviction history during sentencing. (Ref 3 pg. 2, 6) First, your crime is placed into a specific class category based on the seriousness of the crime. (Ref 3, pg. 3) Felonies are classified from Class A through Class I, with Class A being the most serious; misdemeanors are classified from Class A1 to Class 3. (Ref 3, pg. 3; Ref 4; Ref 5) Next, you're assigned an offender category based on your prior criminal history, which ranges from Prior Record Level I to Level VI for felonies and Prior Level I to III for misdemeanors. (Ref 3, pg. 3; Ref 4; Ref 5) For example, if you have two prior Class H felony convictions, the court will assign two points for each conviction, for a total of four points. (Ref 4; Ref 6) Since you have between two and five points, the court will place you in Prior Level II. (Ref 4, 6)


Court Sets Minimum and Maximum Sentence

Once your class and prior record level are established, the court will then impose a minimum and maximum sentence from either the presumptive, aggravated or mitigation range - punishment ranges set by state law. (Ref 3, pg. 4; Ref 6) The court will sentence you within the presumptive range, the most commonly applied, unless it finds aggravating or mitigating circumstances. (Ref 3; Ref 6) Aggravating circumstances may be such things as the crime being extremely vicious or involving an especially vulnerable victim, like a child or elderly person. (Ref 3; Ref 6) On the other hand, mitigating circumstances could be a genuine belief you were acting within the law or your taking responsibility for your actions. (Ref 3; Ref 6) If the court sentences you within the presumptive range based on your conviction of a Class H felony and Prior Level II status, your sentence will range between six and eight months. (Ref 3; Ref 6)


Subject to Either Active, Intermediate or Community Punishment

Your sentence of six to eight months will be served on either active, intermediate or community punishment. (Ref 3, pg. 3) Active punishment means the court has sentenced you to time behind bars, either jail or prison. (Ref 3, pg. 3-4) Intermediate punishment is a sentence of supervised probation along with additional requirements established in the court's discretion, such as drug treatment, house arrest or educational or vocational skills training. (Ref 3, pg. 3-4) Community punishment is a sentence of either supervised or unsupervised probation and may include such things as community service, house arrest with electronic monitoring or fines. (Ref 3, pg. 4)