We Go to Battle to
Protect Your Freedom

Free Case Consultation

The Harsh Reality of North Carolina DWI Convictions

If you face a conviction for DWI in North Carolina, you’ll face some of the harshest penalties in the country. A first offense can result in losing your driver’s license and a criminal record that will follow you for the rest of your life. That’s why getting legal help is important if you face DWI charges. In this blog post, we’ll look at some additional penalties you may face if convicted of a DWI in North Carolina.

Penalties for DWI North Carolina

DWI in North Carolina stands for “Driving While Impaired.” NC DWI levels bring differing DWI sentencing depending on your prior DWI convictions and any aggravating and mitigating factors.

Without an experienced DWI attorney to defend your rights, you don’t stand much chance of beating your charges. Let’s look at some consequences of a DWI conviction so that you understand why you need to fight a DWI offense!

An offense involving impaired driving can bring you a multitude of penalties and consequences, including:

  • Court costs
  • Substance abuse assessment
  • Increased car insurance
  • Loss of license or limited driving privileges (revocation or suspension of driver’s license)
  • Community service
  • Probation
  • Professional licenses revoked
  • Higher car insurance premiums or the loss of the ability to get car insurance
  • Jail time
  • A “minimum jail sentence” with prior convictions
  • Other motor vehicle offense charges, including dangerous driving
  • Monetary penalties
  • License suspension of one year for your first offense or four years for a second offense
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device in your vehicle
  • Wearing a Continuous Alcohol Monitoring System on your person

How North Carolina DWI Laws Work

There are a few ways to commit an impaired driving offense and face a DWI arrest in North Carolina.

If a police officer pulls you over, they can arrest you for DWI offenses, including:

  • Failing a field sobriety test and being “appreciably impaired”
  • Over the legal limit of .08% or higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC) on a breathalyzer test
  • .04% blood alcohol concentration for commercial drivers or bus drivers for kids or others, etc
  • Chemical testing showing substance impairment

NC DWI laws make impaired driving of any kind illegal. Not only is drunk driving illegal, but you can get a DWI under North Carolina law when taking a lawfully prescribed drug.

If a law enforcement officer arrests you for DWI, you may lose your driver’s license and depending on your criminal history of DWIs, the car you were driving (whether it is yours or not!).

North Carolina DWI Levels of DWI Conviction Penalties

So let’s say you go out with friends and have a few drinks. A law enforcement officer stops you on your drive home and gives you a breathalyzer test. You blow a .09, which is above the legal limit.

In that case, you can face charges for one of the misdemeanor DWI levels listed below. You can even face Aggravated Level 1 charges depending on the circumstances! Even if you only face a Level 5 DWI, you will possess a lifetime criminal record with a conviction! 

The consequences for each level of misdemeanor DWI, according to North Carolina Law, include:

Level V

Punishable by a fine up to $200, 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.

Level IV

Punishable by a fine up to $500, 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.

Level III

Punishable by a fine up to $1,000, 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.

Level II

Punishable by a fine up to $2,000, a minimum jail sentence of seven days, and a maximum of one year. A judge CANNOT suspend the minimum sentence except under very narrow circumstances. 

Level I

Punishable by a fine up to $4,000, a minimum jail sentence of 30 days, and a maximum of two years. A judge CANNOT suspend the minimum sentence. Only under very narrow circumstances can the judge suspend some of it. 

Aggravated Level I

Punishable by a fine up to $10,000, 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 charges 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:

  • Repeat offender
  • Driving on a suspended license because of a previous DWI
  • Impaired driver transporting young children
  • Impaired driver who hurt someone in a crash

Facing Aggravated DWI Charges in NC

It’s crucial to consult with an attorney about your DWI to determine if you face aggravating factors.

Law enforcement officers can only charge you with “DWI.” However, later, if you face a conviction, a judge will determine your sentencing based on aggravating and mitigating factors.

Aggravating factors may include: 

  • DWI with BAC of 0.15 percent or gross impairment of the driver’s faculties.
  • Driving dangerously or recklessly.
  • Negligent driving, which led to an accident.
  • Driving with a revoked license (non-DWI related).
  • Going by a stopped school bus.
  • Speeding while fleeing or attempting to avoid arrest.
  • Driving at least 30 mph over the posted speed limit.
  • Two or more prior convictions for a traffic violation (non-DWI related) costing three points.
  • One or more prior DWI conviction occurrences more than seven years before the current offense.

Do You Have Grossly Aggravating Factors?

These factors add another level of seriousness to the penalties you may face at sentencing for a DWI:

  • Prior DWI conviction within the past seven years. 
  • Prior conviction for DWI happening after your current offense but before your sentencing
  • Getting arrested for a DWI while driving on a prior DWI offense suspended license.
  • DWI happens while in a car accident that causes serious injury or death
  • DWI with a child under 18 or a person with a disability in your car. 

Gross Aggravating Factors Bring Higher Level Penalties

  • One grossly aggravating factor = Level 2 DWI
  • Two grossly aggravating factors = Level 1 DWI
  • Three or more grossly aggravating factors = Level 1A DWI (Aggravated 1)

Penalties with higher level DWI and a separate grossly aggravating factor can bring harsh penalties. By working with an experienced attorney, you can find a defense that will help you move forward with fewer consequences.

Mitigating Factors are Favorable Factors

If your defense attorney presents mitigating factors to the judge, it can reduce your penalties. When deciding on a DWI case, judges also consider any factors that could improve the situation.

Some mitigating factors that may help your case include:

  • Alcohol consumption without chemical analysis and only slight impairment with BAC of .09
  • Alcohol consumption without chemical analysis and only slight impairment
  • Besides DWI, you were following the law and driving safely.
  • Besides DWI, you have a safe driving record or no convictions worth at least four points
  • DWI on prescribed medication, according to the proper dosage.
  • Voluntarily checking into a mental health facility for assessment.
  • Completing substance abuse evaluation, complying with court recommendations, and abstaining from alcohol for 60 days using continuous alcohol monitoring (CAM) system.
  • Polite and cooperative with the officer 

If you face DWI charges, speak to an attorney about defending yourself and whether mitigating factors may help your defense strategy!

Our Experienced DWI Attorneys Can Help

At Scharff Law, our experienced DWI attorneys understand the complexities of NC DWI charges and how to best defend your case. We are here to help you navigate the legal system and protect your rights.

Our goal is to provide a strong defense and work toward reducing or eliminating the penalties associated with a DWI conviction. Contact us today for a free consultation. We will review your case and develop a plan to protect you throughout the legal process. Don’t let DWI charges ruin your future, contact us today!