NC DWI Punishments Levels

North Carolina is constantly updating its laws around Driving While Impaired (DWI). In fact, recently adjusted punishments for the lowest level DWI convictions – Level 1 or Level 2 – will result in mandatory jail time.

Our state’s DWI punishments depend on aggregating factors. If you’ve had multiple charges, both the timing of those charges and their different levels dictate the circumstances for each violation. It is imperative that you consult an experienced traffic attorney who can explain the new laws and discuss options that could help reduce jail time.

North Carolina’s General Statue for Driving While Impaired
The language used in drafting NC General Statue 20-179 is complicated as are understanding all of the aggravating factors and different level of punishments that come with with a DWI charge and conviction. It’s important to work with an experienced attorney who both understands the statue and actively studies the law to remain current on its frequent changes.

  • Review NC General Statue 20-179: Sentencing hearing after conviction for impaired driving; determination of grossly aggravating and aggravating and mitigating factors; punishments.

Standing Before a Judge
If you’re arrested for a DWI, you will stand before a judge. A judge reviews all factors around your situation, like your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), prescription medicines, reports from law enforcement and your current driving record. NC DWI penalties and punishments – from jail time and fines to license suspensions and insurance rate increases – are based on these factors.Arrested after car crash

Impacts of a DWI Conviction
In addition legal punishments, many employers will not hire – and may terminate – you do to a DWI conviction because of higher insurance costs. Some school and colleges will reject an applicant who has a DWI conviction. And, the US military has gone on record that it may reject, delay entry or separate a person because of a DWI conviction.

Aggregating factors matter in DWI cases. It’s important to contact an experience attorney to help you understand the circumstances of your case and how a conviction will impact you and your family.

Download North Carolina’s “Booze it and Loose it” brochure

DWI Sentencing Levels
The summary below is based on NC General Statue 20-179. North Carolina is almost constantly revising punishment levels. It’s important to review your specific charges with an experienced traffic attorney to understand the consequences of your violations.

Mitigating Factors
These specific factors are concerned as “mitigating” for DWI sentencing purposes:

  1. Slight impairment solely from alcohol and a BAC that is .09 at the time of the charge.
  2. Slight impairment solely from alcohol, but no chemical analysis was given.
  3. Driving that was safe and lawful except for the impairment of driver’s faculties.
  4. A safe driving record with no conviction for any motor vehicle offense that resulted in at least four points were assigned or where a license was subject being revoked within
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    five years.

  5. Impairment caused primarily by a lawfully prescribed drug for an existing medical condition, and that the amount that was taken was within the prescribed dosage.
  6. After being charged with a DWI offense, voluntary agree to an assessment at a mental health facility, and, if recommended by the facility, voluntary participate in recommended treatment.
  7. Complete a substance abuse assessment, comply with its recommendations, and simultaneously abstain from alcohol for 60 days as proven by a continuous alcohol monitoring (CAM) system. The CAM must be approved by the NC Division of Adult Correction of the Department of Public Safety.
  8. Any other factor that mitigates the seriousness of the offense.

Aggravating Factors
The specific factors below are considered “aggravating factors” for DWI sentencing purposes:

  1. Gross impairment while driving or an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more within a relevant time after the driving. The results of a chemical analysis presented at trial or sentencing is all that’s needed to prove the person’s alcohol concentration and can no be modified by any party, with or without court approval.
  2. Especially reckless or dangerous driving.
  3. Negligent driving that led to a reportable accident.
  4. Driving while a driver’s license was revoked.
  5. Two or more prior convictions of a motor vehicle offense that do not involve a DWI charge where at least three points were assigned or if the a person’s license could be revoked or if the convictions happened within five years, or one or more prior convictions involving a DWI charge that occurred more than seven years ago.
  6. Conviction of speeding while fleeing or attempting to avoid apprehension.
  7. Conviction of speeding by at least 30 miles per hour over the legal limit.
  8. Passing a stopped school bus.
  9. Any other factor that aggravates the seriousness of the offense.

Except for in factor number five, actions that constitute an aggravating factor must have occurred at the same incident of the DWI offense.

Grossly Aggravating Factors
The specific factors below are considered “grossly aggravating” for DWI sentencing purposes:

  1. A prior conviction for an offense involving impaired driving if: (i) the conviction happened within seven years before the current offense, (ii) the conviction occurs after the date of the current offense, but prior to or simultaneous with the present sentencing, or (iii) a change of court: the conviction occurred in district court; was appealed to superior court; the appeal has been withdrawn, or the case has been remanded back to district court; and a new sentencing hearing has not been held pursuant to G.S. 20-387. NOTE: Each prior conviction is a separate grossly aggravating factor.

  2. Driving with a license that had been revoked for a previous DWI charge.
  3. Serious injury to another person at the time of the DWI charge.
  4. Impaired driving while one of these passengers is in the vehicle: (i) a child under 18 years old, (ii) a person with the mental development of a child under the age of 18 years, or (iii) a person with a physical disability that prevents them from exiting the vehicle on their own.

DWI Punishment Levels

Level 5 – No aggravating or mitigating factors or mitigating factors outweigh any aggravating factors

  • Immediate 30-day license suspension, with the possibility of limited driving privileges after 10 days.
  • Up to a $200 fine.
  • Between 24 hours and 60 days in jail.
  • Substance abuse assessment or abstaining from alcohol (using a CAM device), if you’re placed on probation. It’s critical to talk through these options with an experienced attorney.

Level 4 – No aggravating or mitigating factors or aggravating factors are counterbalanced by any mitigating factors

 

  • Immediate Immediate 30-day license suspension, with the possibility of limited driving privileges after 10 days.
  • Up to a $500 fine.
  • Between 48 hours and 120 days in jail.
  • Substance abuse assessment, if you’re placed on probation.

Level 3 – No grossly aggravating factors and aggravating factors outweigh any mitigating factors

  • Immediate Immediate 30-day license suspension, with the possibility of limited driving privileges after 10 days.
  • Up to a $1,000 fine.
  • Between 72 hours and 6 months in jail or community service, if appropriate
  • Substance abuse assessment or abstaining from alcohol (using a CAM device), if you’re paced on probation. It’s critical to talk through these options with an experienced attorney.

Level 2 – If no minor child (under 18) was in the vehicle and only one grossly aggravating factor

  • Immediate 30-day license suspension, with the possibility of limited driving privileges after 10 days.
  • Up to a $2,000 fine.
  • Between 7 days and 12 months in jail.
  • Substance abuse assessment or abstaining from alcohol (using a CAM device), if you’re placed on probation. It’s critical to talk through these options with an experienced attorney.

Level 1 – If the defendant was accompanied by a child (under 18) or any two other grossly aggravating factors

  • Immediate 30-day license suspension, with the possibility of limited driving privileges after 10 days.
  • Up to a $4,000 fine.
  • Between 30 days and 24 months in jail.
  • Substance abuse assessment or abstaining from alcohol (using a CAM device), if you’re placed on probation. It’s critical to talk through these options with an experienced attorney.

Aggravated Level 1 – Three of more grossly aggravating factors

  • Immediate 30-day license suspension, with the possibility of limited driving privileges after 10 days.
  • Up to a $10,000 fine.
  • Between 12 months and 36 months in jail – NOT eligible for parole.
  • Monitored abstaining from alcohol for 4 months after prison release.
  • Substance abuse assessment.