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North Carolina DWI DUI Penalties



North Carolina DWI (or driving while intoxicated) laws are some of the strictest in the country. Penalties can be severe, and repeat offenders face even more severe punishments. If you get caught drinking and driving in the state, you will want to contact a North Carolina DUI attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer may be able to customize a defense strategy for your case, which could result in having the charges dropped or reduced, or being found not guilty at trial.

Enhanced Sentencing for North Carolina DWI

Enhanced sentencing is when a DWI offense is punished more severely because of certain aggravating factors. According to North Carolina DUI laws, aggravating factors which could lead to increased DWI punishments include:

  • The number of DWI offenses on your record
  • Whether your license was already revoked for a prior DWI
  • Your overall driving record
  • Whether a child under the age of 16 was in the car at the time of your arrest
  • If your blood-alcohol level was .15 percent or higher
  • If your DWI caused property damage or injury to someone else

There are five sentencing levels in North Carolina, with Level 5 being the least severe and Level 1 being the most severe. A judge will make a sentencing decision based on how many aggravating factors were involved in your DWI case. If you have two or more aggravating factors, you will probably get a Level 1 sentence. If you have one aggravating factor, you will likely get a Level 2 sentence.

There are also mitigating factors. These factors can help reduce the level of punishment. Some examples of mitigating factors include:

  • A clean driving record
  • Blood-alcohol content of .09 or less
  • Impairment because of a proper dosage of legal medication
  • Driving lawfully at the time of the offense aside from driving impaired

In the end, however, sentencing for North Carolina DWI cases is up to the judge presiding over the case.

Level 1 Punishments

Under North Carolina DWI law, if your DUI involves two or more aggravating factors, a judge will likely issue you a level 1 punishment. This is true even if it is your first offense.

Punishment for level 1 DUI convictions include:

  • 30 days to two years in jail
  • A fine of not more than $4,000

Level 2 Punishments

The punishment for a level 2 North Carolina DWI offender includes:

  • Seven days to one year in jail
  • A fine of not more than $2,000

Level 3 Punishments

Level 3 punishments include:

  • 72 hours to six months in jail
  • A fine of no more than $1,000

Level 4 Punishments

Level 4 punishments include:

  • 48 hours to 120 days in jail
  • A fine of not more than $500

Level 5 Punishments

Level 5 punishments are the most common level of punishment for first-time offenders. If you have no aggravating factors contributing to your case, you will face the following punishments:

  • 24 hours to 60 days in jail
  • A fine of not more than $200
  • Repeat North Carolina DWI Offenders

    In addition to the Level 1 to Level 5 DUI penalties, you may receive additional punishments if you are a repeat offender.

    First-time DWI offenders in North Carolina are punished, in addition to jail time and fines, with one year of license suspension, as well as a substance abuse assessment.

    Second-time offenders face harsher penalties, especially if the second offense occurred within three years of the first. Those convicted of a second DWI in North Carolina face:

    • License suspension of four years if the previous DWI occurred within the past three years
    • When the driver's license is restored, mandatory ignition interlock device
    • Substance abuse assessment

    In North Carolina, a third DWI offense within 10 years of the other convictions is considered a class F felony. If this occurs, you will face a minimum prison sentence of 12 months regardless of how many aggravating factors were involved in your DUI.

    In addition, third-time DWI offenders face:

    • Permanent license suspension if the most recent DUI was within the last five years
    • Installation of an ignition interlock device if the license is restored
    • Possible vehicle forfeiture
    • Substance abuse assessment