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How Likely is Jail Time for First DUI?

If you’re one of the many drivers who have been pulled over and arrested for a DUI, you’re probably wondering, “How likely is jail time for a first DUI?” In this blog post, we’ll look at how likely it is that you’ll spend time behind bars after your first DUI (DWI) charge. We’ll also discuss the potential consequences of a conviction, so you can be better prepared if faced with these charges.

What Jail Sentence Can I Face for DUI (DWI) in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, the jail sentence for a first-offense DUI (DWI) conviction can range from 24 hours to 6 months if convicted! In most cases, however, in a simple DWI charge where mitigating factors outweigh aggravating factors, you may spend 24 hours in jail. However, an attorney can work to have these 24 hours replaced with 24 hours of community service instead.

You can also lose your driver’s license and all driving privileges for a year, even on a first offense. If you refuse a chemical test or breathalyzer test at the county jail your license can be suspended regardless of whether you are convicted. You will likely have your license suspended immediately for these refusals!

If convicted, the judge for your case will look at:

  • If this is your first DUI conviction
  • Your blood alcohol level and how high it is above the legal limit
  • Prior criminal offenses or criminal record related to driving or prior DUI convictions
  • The mandatory minimum jail sentence for your offense
  • Standard DUI penalties for other first-time DUI offenders

The length of your stay in jail typically depends on how much alcohol was in your system at the time of arrest, prior convictions, and other factors. In addition to any possible jail time, you may be subject to fines, court costs, and other penalties.

A DUI charge can feel daunting, especially if you’ve been in an accident or caused a serious injury. With other additional criminal charges, such as vehicular manslaughter, you can face ten years of prison time.

Working with an experienced DUI attorney can help a case result in a lesser offense charge with lower penalties.

What Exactly is a DUI (DWI) Offense in North Carolina?

Driving drunk with any vehicle on a public street or parking lot is illegal. You can even be charged if you are parked, and your car is on, and you are in the driver’s seat. 

With a first DUI offense, you are rarely held with a bond when first arrested. Usually, you are given a written promise to appear. DUI charges in NC usually result in a misdemeanor DUI conviction unless there are extreme aggravating factors, such as causing serious injury or death. 

A first-offense DUI conviction carries a minimum sentence of 24 hours in jail, but it’s possible to face much worse penalties following a DUI arrest and conviction.

DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and DWI (Driving While Impaired) in North Carolina are the same offenses.

You can face arrest for DWI or DUI for the following:

  • Failing a field sobriety test and being “appreciably impaired”
  • 0.08% or higher on a breathalyzer test
  • .04% for a commercial driver or when driving a bus for kids, etc
  • Chemical testing showing impairment (even with a prescription medication you take as prescribed!!)

If you are arrested for DWI, you can lose your driver’s license and the car you were driving (whether it is yours or not). 

However, the chances of getting out from under a DWI conviction are slim without legal representation to safeguard your rights. Now, let’s consider the repercussions of being found guilty of driving while impaired.

What Penalties Can I Face for DUI (DWI) Conviction in North Carolina?

Mandatory jail time for a simple first DUI can be from 24 hours up to 60 days! Much of your mandatory jail sentence depends on your blood alcohol concentration and aggravating circumstances.

Severe penalties are possible with a first conviction if your aggravating factors outweigh your mitigating factors. With a Level 3 DWI, even with a first offense, you could face 6 months of prison time!

While no one wants to serve time, repeat offenders sometimes face DUI sentencing of 3 years and $10,000 in fines. For a judge to give you a suspended sentence, you must obtain a substance abuse assessment and the education or treatment required by North Carolina statute G.S. 20-17.6 to regain your driver’s license and as a probation condition. (1)

Chart from sog.unc.edu

Working with a knowledgeable DUI lawyer can reduce jail time for a first-offense DWI/DUI. Depending on how high your blood alcohol content is and other factors, you may find remedies such as an ignition interlock device or blood alcohol monitoring system available to you instead of prison time.

Experienced DWI/ DUI Defense Attorney Can Help

Whether you’re facing a license suspension, first-offender DUI charges, or a subsequent DUI conviction, we can help. At Scharff Law, we offer a free consultation and negotiate with the prosecutor’s office to get you the best possible outcome for your case! 

Contact us today and start finding your way out of your legal struggle!