North Carolina has more than 400 criminal laws. Cases are heard in both District and Superior Courts. The most serious cases, the ones that often result in a prison sentence of at least one year or more, are felonies and they are usually heard in Superior Court. Felonies include such things as breaking and entering, assault, sale or delivery of controlled substance, forgery, rape, incest, murder or embezzlement.
Misdemeanor offenses are heard in District Court. A person convicted of a misdemeanor offense may receive a small amount of active jail time depending on the person’s prior criminal record.
If a person has been arrested and is unable to post bond, he or she will be escorted to court by a uniformed law enforcement officer on the appropriate date. If a person is free on bail, he or she must be in court at the appointed time indicated on the release order. If a person has been served with a summons, he or she must report to the county courthouse at the designated time on the summons and find the courtroom in which the case will be heard. There will be a list of names outside the courtrooms. Find your name and enter that courtroom. If you cannot find your name on any of the lists, check with the clerk of courts office located in the courthouse.
Below is a flow chart of the Court Process. For more information on the Criminal Justice System or the court process, please visit our “Frequently Asked Questions“.