Understanding Dispositional Ranges in North Carolina Criminal Court Cases

Charlotte Criminal Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?”


Imagine a scenario in which two individuals in North Carolina commit the same exact felony crime. Should their charges and sentencing be equal? While many people may instinctively answer “Yes,” the reality (as any experienced criminal defense attorney may be quick to point out) is much more complicated.


balance-Charlotte-Monroe-Mooresville-Criminal-Defense-Lawyer-300x204North Carolina, like many other states, organizes their felony crimes into categories based on the severity of the offense. When an individual commits a crime in the state, the judge and courts will look at that individual’s history of criminal activity to determine how he or she should be charged.


By working with an experienced and trusted local criminal defense attorney, those accused of crimes may be able to build a case that shows their sentencing should be less than what is initially proposed based on a number of factors the judge and court will consider. These legal professionals will help the accused prepare the necessary documents, organize their approach, and ensure they have a solid understanding of the state laws.


Although an experienced criminal defense attorney should always be considered the primary resource when building a defense case in North Carolina, the following will present some baseline information on how dispositional ranges play into criminal sentencing determination in North Carolina.


Dispositional Ranges Defined


Dispositional ranges can be thought of as the potential length of time a person can be sentenced by the court for their felony crime. Courts consider an individual’s prior criminal record (if any) and the severity of the current offense when determining sentencing. In addition, any aggravating or mitigating factors are considered as well, as described in the following section.


Types of Dispositional Ranges in North Carolina


When it comes to determining sentence length in a criminal trial, there are three types of dispositional ranges into which sentencing can fall. First, there is the presumptive range. This is the standard sentencing for any given felony crime.  Unless there are aggravating or mitigating factors to consider as well, an individual’s sentencing will likely fall within the presumptive range.


The aggravated range is considered by courts when aggravating factors are present in the case.  This broad term can encompass a number of different possible circumstances that contribute to a crime, such as if the accused was hired to commit the crime or the age of the victim was significantly young or old. Aggravating factors tend to carry a more substantial sentence when applied to a criminal charge.


Finally, mitigating factors can also impact the sentencing of an individual in North Carolina. For example, if the defendant is the sole breadwinner for his or her family or was under the impression that their actions were not illegal, this may impact the sentence length the court imposes. Consulting with your criminal defense attorney can help you determine if any mitigating factors may play a role in your case.


When to Contact an Attorney


For years, the attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC have been helping defendants in Charlotte and throughout North Carolina build a solid case before going to trial. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today for experienced insight you can trust. Please contact us today to get a phone, video or in-person consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.







The criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC make it their mission to zealously defend their clients on a wide range of criminal matters at both the state and federal levels. These matters may include any charge from traffic offenses; DWI/DUI; drug charges (from simple possession to possession with intent to distribute and trafficking); gun permit denials; weapons offenses; and property crimes (larceny, breaking and entering, robbery, fraud, embezzlement, white collar offenses); to sexually related offenses (indecent exposure; sexual assault, crimes against nature, removal from sex offender registry); and violent crimes (domestic violence; assault; manslaughter; homicide, murder). Other legal issues that Arnold & Smith, PLLC criminal clients may be facing include restraining orders, restraining order and probation violations, expungements; appeals; and immigration issues related to criminal charges. Our criminal defense attorneys are passionate about ensuring that individuals empower themselves by being informed about their constitutional rights, and stand at the ready to fight in the defense of those facing criminal charges.






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