What is a Conditional Discharge?

Charlotte Criminal Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “What are the long term effects of being convicted of a crime?”


Being charged with a crime in North Carolina can be scary. Suddenly, you are facing serious penalties and even a prison sentence that could be devastating to your life. In criminal cases, most people think of a defendant being found “guilty” or “not guilty.” Not guilty is the ideal finding in a criminal case, but that is not always the result. When defendants hear a guilty verdict, they might think that their lives are ruined. In criminal cases in North Carolina, there are some options for a defendant, even after a finding of guilt.


Eraser-Charges-discharged-Charlotte-Criminal-Defense-Lawyer-Monroe-DWI-Attorney-300x225A conditional discharge is an option that a judge may allow after a finding of guilt. A defendant who is found guilty or pleads guilty to a crime may be given a conditional discharge. This means that the defendant will be placed on probation for a period of time. At the end of the probationary period, if the defendant completed and abided by all terms of the probation, the charge will be discharged. Not every crime is eligible for a conditional discharge, but North Carolina statutes outline which crimes are.


Discharge Under North Carolina General Statute 90-96


G.S. 90-96 includes two different discharges descriptions. Eligibility for a discharge depends on the type of crime committed. 90-96 applies to misdemeanor possessions of controlled substances under Schedule I-VI; felony possessions of a controlled substance; or misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia. The previous charges are eligible for conditional discharge, but that does not mean a defendant will automatically receive one. To be eligible, the defendant must:


  • Not have any previous felony convictions of any kind, not just the felonies included in this statute
  • Not have any convictions that fall under North Carolina General Statute Chapter 90; and
  • Not have received a conditional discharge under 90-96 or 90-113.14.


Discharge Under North Carolina General Statute 15A-1341(a4)


This conditional discharge is available to defendants who are guilty of a Class H felony, Class I felony, or a misdemeanor that is not impaired driving. This is only available by a joint motion by both the prosecutor of the case and defendant. In addition to the joint motion, before a conditional discharge can be granted, the court must determine:


  • Every known victim of the crime is notified and has the opportunity to be heard by the court if they so desire;
  • The felony or misdemeanor the defendant is guilty of does not involve moral turpitude;
  • The defendant has not previously been placed on probation; and
  • If the defendant is likely to commit another crime, it is only likely that it will be a Class 3 misdemeanor.


The above are not the only available conditional discharge options, but two of the more complex eligibility requirements. At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, the experienced criminal law attorneys can explain conditional discharge to you in detail and help you receive it if applicable. We know that criminal charges can be scary because of the unknowns in sentencing. We are here to explain your options to you. Contact us today for a consultation. in or around Charlotte, Lake Norman, or our new office in Monroe (by appointment only until 2019), please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828






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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