Be Careful What You Say…Your Words May Be a Crime

Former NFL offensive lineman Jonathan Martin made headlines a a few years ago when he accused several of his Miami Dolphins teammates of bullying him and creating a hostile work environment. He eventually left the team and has not played in the NFL since 2015.

Martin is now back in the news because he was recently charged with four felony counts of making criminal threats on social media against some of his former teammates and one misdemeanor count of carrying a loaded weapon. He has pleaded not guilty to these charges.

Martin was charged in California, and the maximum punishment that he is facing far exceeds the punishment he would receive in some of the other states. In California, depending on the allegations and circumstances, a prosecutor has the option of charging this offense as felony (maximum sentence up to 4 years) or a misdemeanor (maximum sentence up to 1 year).

So what type of crimes would Jonathan Martin face in North Carolina?  First of all, let’s address the threats he allegedly made online.  Our laws generally designate the crime of communicating threats as a class 1 misdemeanor. As a result, if Martin were charged with only  communicating threats in North Carolina, he would face a maximum sentence of 120 days.  However, because his threat involved a school, Martin’s alleged conduct could result in the class H felony of making false reports concerning mass violence on educational property.  What is interesting about this charge is that the State must prove that the report of mass violence was made, but also that the defendant knew or had reason to know the report was false.  The maximum penalty for a class H felony is 39 months in prison.

With respect to gun charges in North Carolina, North Carolina is an “open carry” state with some obvious limitations and restrictions.  Convicted felons may not carry a gun, and a violation will result in a charge of possession of a firearm by a felon, which is a class G felony and punishable up to 47 months in jail.  Likewise, even if it is lawful for a person to carry a gun, the gun may not be concealed without a concealed weapons permit.   A violation of that concealed weapons permit requirement will result in the charge of carrying a concealed weapon, which is a class 2 misdemeanor and punishable up to 60 days in jail.

Being charged with a North Carolina crime such as communicating threats, firearm by a felon, or carrying a concealed weapon can have serious consequences and penalties.   If you are charged with a North Carolina crime in Forsyth County or one of the surrounding counties (Davie, Davidson, Guilford, and Yadkin), you need to speak with a Forsyth County criminal defense attorney in Winston-Salem.  Please call our office at (336) 725-6559 for a free consultation with an experienced Winston-Salem criminal defense attorney with knowledge about North Carolina criminal charges to review your case and to discuss your options.

Felony Sentencing: I was charged with a felony. Is it mandatory that I go to jail?

One of the most common questions that I often receive is whether someone who is charged with a felony is required to go to prison.  The simple answer is “no”.  However, the answer is still more complicated that you think.

In North Carolina, individuals who are convicted of felony crimes are subjected to felony sentencing guidelines.  As a result, to determine whether an individual is required to serve an active sentence depends on two factors:  the class of felony and the individual’s prior criminal record.  Therefore, although a judge has a lot of discretion, the guidelines also assist the judge in determining the type of judgment that may be ordered.

For example, felonies in North Carolina range from class A (most serious) to class I (least serious).  All criminal charges are obviously serious matters, but the type of punishment varies greatly from the most serious class A felony (murder) to the lease serious class I felony (possession of cocaine, possession of marijuana, etc.)

After determining the class of felony, it is then necessary to determine the individual’s prior criminal record.  For certain prior convictions, an individual will receive certain points, and those points will ultimately determine the individual’s record level for sentencing purposes.  The judge will then consider the felony conviction and the record level and issue a judgment based on the felony sentencing guidelines.

A felony conviction in North Carolina carries serious penalties and consequences.  If you are charged with a North Carolina felony in Forsyth County or one of the surrounding counties, you need to speak with a Forsyth County criminal defense attorney to represent you.  Please call our office at (336) 725-6559 to speak with an experienced and aggressive Winston-Salem criminal defense attorney.