Driving Under The Influence In North Carolina
You may find yourself facing a driving while impaired charge (DWI) in North Carolina if you have been operating a vehicle under the influence of a substance, such as drugs or alcohol.
In North Carolina, there are five levels of DWI conviction that come with various consequences. Level one is the most serious, and is typically given to those who have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.15 or higher.
Level 5 is the lowest of the levels, and is generally given to those who are impaired by drugs or other substances. Each level has different penalties, ranging from a fine to jail time.
In some cases, a person may be eligible for diversion programs or treatment options instead of penalties. It is important to note that DWI charges can also be enhanced if there are certain factors present, such as having a minor in the car or causing an accident. If you have been charged with DWI, it is vital to speak to an attorney to discuss your options and defenses.
What Are The Different Levels Of DWI In NC?
DWI (driving while intoxicated) offenses vary in severity depending on the state in which they occur. In North Carolina, there are five levels of DWI offenses, each level of offense carries different penalties, including fines, jail time, and license suspensions. It is important to understand the differences between these offenses to make the best decision possible if you are faced with a DWI charge.
This is the most severe level of DWI. A person can face this type of DWI if a minor was with the defendant at the time of the offense, or if the incident included two grossly aggravating factors (these will be addressed later).
Aggravated DWI level one is applied if there are three grossly aggravating factors in your case.
A Level 2 DWI means the offense involved grossly aggravating factors, but no minors were in the vehicle at the time.
With a Level 3 DWI, the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating factors, but no grossly aggravating factors are present. These can include a serious injury, prior DWI conviction, or driving on a revoked license.
A Level 4 DWI can arise if mitigating factors counterbalance aggravating factors.
As the least severe form of the crime, a DWI Level 5 means the defendant was driving with too much alcohol or impairing drugs in their system, but the incident did not result in any aggravating factors, or if the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating factors. We’ll explore this topic in depth a bit later.
DWI Sentencing Levels
The penalties someone faces for a DWI or DUI in North Carolina will depend on the level of the offense.
The more serious the offense, the more serious the penalty.
Level 1 Sentencing
At level one, the defendant can face up to $4,000 in fines and anywhere from 30 days to 2 years in prison. The 30-day jail sentence may be reduced to a 10-day sentence if you abstain from alcohol for 120 days. Wearing a continuous alcohol monitoring ankle bracelet is also part of the plan to prove your abstinence.
You will also be ordered not to drive until the DMV returns your driver’s license. You will also have to complete an alcohol treatment program.
Level A1 Sentencing
Level A1 sentencing faces up to a $10,000 fine and 1-3 years in prison. To lessen the minimum of 1 year in prison, the judge may allow you to complete 120 days of alcohol abstinence. You would need to wear a continuous alcohol monitoring bracelet as part of the requirement.
Level 2 Sentencing
Level 2 sentencing includes a punishment of seven days to one year in prison and up to a $2,000 fine. A judge may also allow you to complete 90 days of alcohol abstinence to avoid going to jail. A continuous alcohol monitoring ankle bracelet must be worn for the duration.
You will also lose your license and will have to complete an alcohol treatment program to regain your driving privileges.
Level 3 Sentencing
At a Level 3 DWI conviction, there is a fine of up to $1,000 and 72 hours to six months in prison. The judge may suspend the sentence if you are imprisoned for at least 72 hours as a condition of special probation or if you perform at least 72 hours of community service.
Level 4 Sentencing
Level 4 penalties include a fine of up to $500 and 48 hours to 120 days of jail time. You may have your jail term suspended if you are imprisoned for at least 48 hours as a condition of special probation or if you perform at least 48 hours of community service.
Level 5 Sentencing
As the least severe charge, a level 5 DWI in North Carolina carries a punishment of up to a $200 fine and 24 hours to 60 days in jail.
The judge may suspend the jail term if you are behind bars for at least 24 hours as a condition of special probation or if you have performed at least 24 hours of community service.
Your vehicle will be impounded for 10 days when you are first charged with a DWI. You will also have to pay to have your vehicle released. You will have a revoked license for a minimum of 30 days, until the pre-trial hearing. Your attorney can petition for limited driving privileges after 10 days of the DWI charge.
What is a DWI level 5 in NC?
As mentioned above, a Level five DWI is the least serious offense. But it can still come with significant penalties and consequences. A Level 5 DWI means the person was driving with too much alcohol or an impairing drug in their system, but the incident didn’t result in any aggravating or mitigating factors, or the mitigating factors outweighed the aggravating factors. An aggravating factor can refer to many different circumstances such as:
- Reckless or dangerous driving
- Driving with a BAC at or above 0.15%
- Two or more prior motor vehicle offense convictions
- Causing an accident
- Fleeing the police
- One or more prior DWI offense convictions
- Speeding over 30 miles per hour above the speed limit
Mitigating factors include a slight impairment or a BAC no greater than .09%, a safe driving record, safe and lawful driving, and impairment from a prescribed drug.
The penalties for a Level 5 DWI in North Carolina include a driver’s license suspension for one year. The driver can qualify for limited driving privileges so they can go to work or other necessary places. The driver can also face:
- A minimum jail sentence of 24 hours in jail or 24 hours of community service with a maximum sentence of 120 days
- Mandatory substance abuse assessment and/ or education course
NC DWI Sentencing Factors
When you’re discussing sentencing for North Carolina DWI offenses, different factors are taken into consideration. These include:
Aggravating factors can make your penalty more severe, but not to the extent of grossly aggravating factors that can include:
- BAC of 0.15 or above
- Causing an accident that does not result in serious injury
- Driving on a suspended license (but not due to DWI)
- Having a DWI conviction more than seven years old
- Having two or more traffic violations but no previous DWIs
Mitigating factors are used to lessen the penalty of an NC DWI and can positively influence the outcome of your case. These can include:
- BAC of 0.09 or below
- Impairment caused by a legally prescribed medication that was taken in the prescribed manner
- Having a safe driving record
Grossly Aggravating Factors
A grossly aggravating factor in an NC DWI case makes the charges more severe. These include:
- Driving while intoxicated with a minor or disabled person in the car (counts as two grossly aggravating factors)
- Prior convictions for DWI or DUI within the past seven years of the current charge
- Driving while intoxicated with a suspended license due to a previous DWI
- Causing an accident that seriously injures another person
Level of Intoxication in NC DWI Laws
In North Carolina, driving a vehicle with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher is illegal. When driving a commercial motor vehicle, the limit is 0.04. The most significant aspects of the state’s DWI law make the punishment more severe for impaired drivers, especially repeat offenders.
Are You Looking for a DWI Lawyer in North Carolina?
If you’re looking for a North Carolina DWI attorney, call the offices of J.M. Kotzker. We have the experience necessary when it comes to DWI and DUI defense. Call the office at [phone] or reach out to us online for more information.