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FAQs About DWIs in North Carolina

Frequently Asked Questions About DWIs in North Carolina

If you or a loved one is facing charges of a DWI, you’re most likely worried about what this means for your future and you have a lot of questions. Many of our clients have had similar questions and concerns, so our DWI lawyers in Raleigh wanted to take the opportunity to provide some clarity related to these laws.

What Is a DWI in North Carolina?

A DWI stands for “Driving While Intoxicated.” In other states, it may be referred to as a DUI or “driving under the influence,” but it means the same thing. While it typically refers to drunk driving or having a blood alcohol content of .08 percent, you can be charged and even convicted of a DWI if you smoked marijuana, took prescribed medication in the proper manner, or even used an over the counter medicine if it can affect your driving ability. 

Is a DWI a Misdemeanor or Felony?

The overall majority of DWIs are misdemeanors. However, there are two circumstances when one may be charged with felony DWI: 

  1. If the accused has three prior DWI convictions, or
  2. The DWI resulted in an accident in which someone died.

A felony DWI conviction carries a minimum of one year in prison as well as substance abuse counseling, and also includes permanent loss of your driving privileges.

What Are the Penalties for a DWI Conviction?

The penalties for a misdemeanor DWI are complicated and vary significantly depending on the circumstances of your charges, including prior history and when factoring in aggravating and mitigating factors. These determine the level of a DWI which can range from Level 1A (most severe) down to a Level 5 (least severe penalties)

  • Level 1A: Minimum 120 days in jail up to 36 months, and up to $10,000 fine;
  • Level 1: Minimum 30 days in jail up to 24 months, and up to a $4,000 fine;
  • Level 2: A minimum of 7 days in jail up to 12 months and up to a $2,000 fine;
  • Level 3: Maximum of six months in jail and $1,000 fine, possible probation and community service;
  • Level 4: Maximum of 120 days in jail and a $500 fine, possible probation and community service;
  • Level 5: Maximum of 60 days in jail, a maximum $200 fine, possible probation and community service.
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What are Grossly Aggravating Factors?

These are seen as particularly egregious and will make your penalty much more severe. Grossly aggravating factors include driving on a suspended license due to a previous DWI, a DWI conviction in the past seven years, causing an accident that resulted in significant injury to someone, or driving while intoxicated when a minor or disabled person is in the vehicle with you. 

The amount of grossly aggravating factors determine the level of your charge: 

  • One grossly aggravating factor: Level 2 DWI
  • Two grossly aggravating factors OR having a child or disabled person in the car: Level 1 DWI
  • Three or more grossly aggravating factors: Level 1A 

If there aren’t any grossly aggravating factors, you can’t be charged with a Level 1A, 1, or 2 DWI. 

What Are Aggravating Factors in a DWI Case?

Aggravating factors negatively affect your case but not significantly so. These typically include: 

  • Two or more traffic violations but no DWIs in seven years;
  • Driving on a suspended license that wasn’t revoked due to DWI;
  • Causing an accident that did not result in serious injury;
  • DWI conviction older than 7 years.

What Are Mitigating Factors in a DWI Case?

Mitigating factors are those that affect your case positively, and will minimize the penalty you’re facing. These include: 

  • A BAC that didn’t exceed 0.09 percent;
  • Completing substance abuse treatment
  • An impairment caused by a prescribed medication you were taking as directed.

If you have more aggravating factors than mitigating factors, you will face a Level 3 DWI. Equal amounts of aggravating and mitigating factors are a Level 4, and more mitigating factors are a Level 5 DWI. 

How Long Will a DWI Affect My Driving Record?

Typically, a single DWI will affect your driving and a criminal record for seven years, in that the amount of time a court can weigh the conviction against you. However, a DWI will show up on your record permanently, affecting your ability to gain employment or rent a property. 

Can a DWI Be Expunged?

As of 2015, DWIs can not be expunged from your record. 

Will My License Be Suspended with a DWI?

Even a charge of a DWI will lead to a minimum 30-day suspension of your license. If found guilty of driving under the influence, you may lose your license for 12 months or longer.

Can I Get My License Reinstated?

During the time period where you are charged and awaiting your court date, you and your lawyer can apply for a limited driving privilege on day 11 after the charge. If convicted of a Level 3, 4, or 5 DWI, you can also apply for a limited driving privilege immediately if your BAC was 0.15 or below and you must meet the following criteria: 

  • Have a valid driver’s license or it has been expired for less than a year;
  • You don’t have other outstanding DWI charges;
  • You’ve completed a substance abuse assessment. 

If your BAC was above 0.15, you must ait 45 days after your conviction. 

The process to apply and be approved for limited driving privileges is challenging. Our team can assist you with getting limited driving privileges so you can go to work, attend school, and keep up with the necessary functions of your life. 

Schedule a Free Consultation with a DWI Lawyer in Raleigh

If you’ve been charged with a DWI or would like to apply for limited driving privileges, reach out to the Law Offices of J.M. Kotzker, P.C. We will advocate on your behalf, fight the charges, and do whatever it takes to help you achieve the most favorable outcome in your case. Schedule a free consultation at (919) 439-5104 or contact NC Law Talk to get started.