North Carolina's habitual offender law is essentially a three strikes policy: once an individual has three felony convictions on his or her record, that person can be charged as a habitual felon in any subsequent proceeding. For habitual violent felons, it only takes two strikes to be classed as a habitually violent offender on the third offense. As we discussed earlier this week, Harold Goins was found to be a habitual violent offender.
Felony convictions that serve the basis of a habitual offender ruling must be separate events. In other words, a single act that ends in more than one felony charge and conviction cannot form the basis for labeling a person a habitual offender. The second felony offense must occur after conviction or guilty plea for the first, and so on.
Sentencing Of Habitual Offenders
After being ruled a habitual felon, all felony offenses that are awaiting sentencing can be sentenced as a Class C felony, unless the offenses are on their own classed at a higher level. If there are multiple felonies for which the individual must be sentenced, each can be sentenced at a Class C level.
The existing felonies that form the basis of the habitual offender designation cannot be used to determine a person's prior criminal history for sentencing purposes. The prosecutor only has to show three convictions; if a person has more, the remaining felony convictions can also be used against the individual to determine prior criminal history.
Habitual felon sentences cannot start until any existing sentence is completed.
For those ruled to be violent habitual felons, the only sentence available is life without parole.