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Is a DWI a Felony in North Carolina?

If you’re arrested for impaired driving in North Carolina, you may wonder if your DWI is a misdemeanor or felony. The answer to that question depends on several factors, including how many times you’ve been convicted of DWI and the severity of the offense. This blog post will take a closer look at when a DWI is a felony in North Carolina. We’ll also see what kinds of consequences you may face if convicted!

Is a DWI a Felony in NC?

If you drive drunk in NC, you can face many penalties, including a maximum fine and jail time. Alcohol-related crimes such as assault can also determine whether you face felony or misdemeanor charges.

The good news is that most DWI charges, including most first-offense cases, are misdemeanors in NC.

However, there are some circumstances where a court may convict you of felony DWI charges! Felony DWI charges are a dire situation!

DWI Levels in NC

The state considers DWI charges by a system of levels. Each offense level may come with recommended penalties for a judge to follow.

  • Level V: Punishable by a $200 fine and a jail sentence of 24 hours to 60 days. A judge can suspend the sentence and require the driver to spend 24 hours in jail or perform 24 hours of community service.
  • Level IV: Punishable by a $500 fine and a jail sentence of 48 hours to 120 days. A judge can suspend the sentence and require the driver to spend 48 hours in jail or perform 48 hours of community service.
  • Level III: Punishable by a $1,000 fine and a jail sentence of 72 hours to six months. A judge can suspend the sentence and require the driver to spend at least 72 hours in jail or perform 72 hours of community service.
  • Level II: Punishable by a $2,000 fine and a jail sentence of seven days to one year. A judge can only suspend the active sentence if the driver wears a continuous alcohol monitoring system for a minimum of 90 days.
  • Level I: Punishable by a $4,000 fine and a jail sentence of 30 days to two years. A judge may reduce the minimum sentence if the driver wears a continuous alcohol monitoring system for a minimum of 90 days. 
  • Aggravated Level I: Punishable by a $10,000 fine and a jail sentence of 12 months to three years. Most sentenced under this Level are not eligible for parole.

North Carolina Habitual DWI Statute

Repeat offenders of driving under the influence in North Carolina can face automatic Class F felony charges. You can face felony charges with your third or subsequent offense for DWI within ten years.

And the NC habitual DWI statute mandates a minimum active jail term of one year — a sentence that a judge won’t suspend. Your motor vehicle also becomes property of the state while your driver’s license is permanently revoked! (1)

A felony charge due to multiple arrests for DWI can land you in prison for up to five years- it’s not a matter to take lightly. If this happens, you’ll also need to attend a substance abuse program or DWI school while in jail or as a condition of parole. (2)

In addition, you can face stiffer penalties and more severe charges for aggravating factors of driving while intoxicated.

Aggravating Factors Can Bring Felony DWI Charges

Other than multiple DWIs, you can also face felony DWI charges with multiple aggravated factors while drunk driving, including:

  • DWI with BAC of 0.15 percent or gross impairment of your faculties.
  • Driving dangerously or recklessly.
  • Negligent driving leading to an accident.
  • Driving with a revoked license (non-DWI related).
  • Driving 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 convictions happening more than seven years before the current offense.

Grossly aggravating factors can raise your DWI level and bring increasingly severe penalties.

Grossly aggravating factors include:

  • Previous DWI conviction within the last seven years 
  • DWI conviction 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 caused serious injury or death.
  • DWI with a child passenger under 18, considered child endangerment.
  • DWI with a person with a disability in your car. 

With one grossly aggravating factor, you can get a Level 2 DWI. With two grossly aggravating factors, law enforcement may charge you with a Level 1 DWI. And with three or more grossly aggravating factors = Level 1A DWI (Aggravated 1)

Higher level DWIs and grossly aggravating factors can bring harsh penalties. Work with an experienced DWI attorney to find a defense that helps you move forward with the fewest consequences!

DWI Related Felony Convictions

You can face a lifelong DWI-related felony conviction if you cause:

  • Felony death by vehicle (Class D felony)
  • Aggravated felony serious injury by vehicle (Class E felony)
  • Intoxication assault bringing felony level charges
  • Felony serious injury by vehicle (Class F felony)
  • Aggravated felony death by vehicle (Class F felony)

A simple DWI sentence can be as severe as a mandatory minimum one-year imprisonment followed by an irrevocable mark on your criminal record. But adding in other charges or aggravating factors can make a bad situation worse!

Talking with your DWI attorney can help mitigate the penalties you face!

Avoid a DWI Conviction

If law enforcement charges you with a felony DWI, don’t let repeat offender laws bring you to state prison time. Instead, find your favorable outcome by working with our experienced DWI criminal defense attorneys to potentially reduce your charges or obtain probation.

We work with criminal offense teams trying DWI cases to help you retain driving privileges or face lesser penalties such as community service, ignition interlock device, or blood alcohol chemical test bracelet.

We understand how to help if you’re worried about enhanced penalties or a prison sentence. Whether you’re facing a third-degree felony DWI charge or charges for a controlled substance, get in touch with us for a free consultation. We can help you see your next steps and set you up for your best outcome!