DWI Consequences in NC
In North Carolina, if an officer has reasonable suspicion that you are driving while impaired, they can conduct further investigation to determine if there is probable cause to arrest you for a DWI even without a warrant. Often they may pull you over for a minor traffic violation such as speeding, expired registration, or a headlight out. However, if you have been drinking, you could potentially face DUI (DWI) charges. A “Driving While Impaired” or DWI is the same as a “Driving Under the Influence” or DUI in North Carolina. These charges can also involve more than just alcohol. Let’s look at what happens if you get a DUI (DWI).
Six Levels of Misdemeanor DWI Convictions
So let’s say you go out to dinner with friends and have a couple of drinks. If you get stopped and blow a .09, you could face charges for one of six levels of misdemeanor DWI, with Aggravated Level 1 being the most serious.
Even the lowest Level 5 DWI can have serious consequences. The consequences for each level of misdemeanor DWI according to North Carolina Law include:
Punishable by a fine up to $200 and a minimum jail sentence of 24 hours and a maximum of 60 days. A judge can suspend the sentence and require the driver to spend 24 hours in jail, perform 24 hours of community service or not operate a vehicle for 30 days.
Punishable by a fine up to $500 and a minimum jail sentence of 48 hours and a maximum of 120 days. A judge can suspend the sentence and require the driver to spend 48 hours in jail, perform 48 hours of community service or not operate a vehicle for 60 days.
Punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and a minimum jail sentence of 72 hours and a maximum of six months. A judge can suspend the sentence and require the driver to spend at least 72 hours in jail, perform 72 hours of community service or not operate a vehicle for 90 days.
Punishable by a fine up to $2,000 and a minimum jail sentence of seven days and a maximum of one year. A judge CANNOT suspend the minimum sentence.
Punishable by a fine up to $4,000 and a minimum jail sentence of 30 days and a maximum of two years. A judge CANNOT suspend the minimum sentence.
Aggravated Level I
Punishable by a fine up to $10,000 and a minimum jail sentence of 12 months and a maximum of three years. A judge CANNOT suspend the minimum sentence. Most sentenced under this Level are not eligible for parole.
Mandatory Jail Time
If you receive an Aggravated Level 1, Level 1, or 2 charge of misdemeanor DWI, there is a minimum mandatory sentence of 7 to 365 days and a possibility of 3 years behind bars. Most aggravated Level 1, Level 1, and Level 2 offenders fall into one of these categories:
- You are a repeat offender.
- If you are driving on a suspended license because of a previous DWI.
- You are an impaired driver who is transporting young children.
- You are an impaired driver who hurt someone in a crash.
One Year Behind Bars
In North Carolina, if you have three prior DWI convictions within the past ten years, the law considers your crime a Class F felony. Your minimum active term in prison is at least one year with no chance of a suspended sentence. You also permanently lose your driver’s license, and the state impounds the vehicle you drove.
If charged with and convicted of felony DWI, you will have to go through a substance abuse program while in jail or as a condition of parole.
What Happens Next?
The legal system is harsh to DWI offenders, especially in Wake County. There are a multitude of consequences you may face if convicted. Finding the best criminal defense team to help you is crucial. Without experienced legal professionals, you could face:
- Criminal Record
A criminal record might affect job prospects and make finding an apartment lease difficult. Your record also shows up on any background checks for volunteer positions or if someone else wants to find out more about you online. Personal record services online often display criminal records for paying customers.
- No Expungement
If convicted of DWI, it stays on your criminal record for your entire life. The state of NC expunges many non-violent crimes, but DWI is not one of them. You must live with the conviction unless your defense team can successfully defend you in court.
- Seizure and Forfeiture of Vehicles
In some cases, a law enforcement officer can immediately, at the scene, seize your car and charge you with a DWI. If convicted, the state keeps your vehicle and sells it for profit.
If you are driving a friend’s vehicle, the police can still impound the car. Your friend will have a hassle trying to get it back.
- Loss of Job
If you are a commercial driver, school, activity, or child care driver, your first DWI disqualifies you from driving commercially for 10 days. Another DWI offense revokes your license for ANY kind of driving.
Driver’s License Revocation
You lose your license for 30 days (with possible limited driving privileges after 10 days) if you:
- Have results of 0.08 or more.
- Have results of 0.04 or more as a commercial driver.
- Refuse the breathalyzer (You also lose your driving privileges for a year)
Under Age 21
If you are under age 21, you may consume no alcohol before driving. The minimum limit is 0.00. You could potentially lose your license for a year if:
- A breathalyzer shows alcohol consumption
- Chemical tests show other illegal substances
- If you refuse the breathalyzer or chemical tests
An excellent criminal defense attorney can sometimes work with prosecutors to get you a deferred prosecution, reduce charges, or drop them altogether, depending on your circumstances.
After DWI Convictions
For your first DWI offense conviction, the state revokes your license for one year. If you are convicted again of a second DWI, you could lose your license for four years. Sometimes, the judge will grant a limited driving privilege for your first DWI if you:
- Did not hurt anyone.
- Did not have a child under sixteen years of age in the car.
- You obtain a substance abuse assessment.
To regain eligibility for your full license from the DMV, you must complete the treatment recommended by the assessing agency. After a DWI, all assessing agencies require at least a minimum of 16 hours of alcohol education.
If you face DWI charges, your future depends on your defense team. At Scharff Law, we understand that a DWI could have lasting consequences for life. We look at every aspect of law enforcement action. Part of our investigation is examining every search and seizure, why law enforcement stopped you, if they had probable cause to arrest you, and the evidence or lack thereof supporting the State’s case. We work tirelessly for you and are ready to take your case to trial to obtain your best outcome. Contact our experienced criminal law team today and find out how we can help you.