Consequences for DWI Charges and Convictions in North Carolina
Being convicted of or even merely charged with a DWI or DUI can lead to severe immediate and long-term consequences. The extent of the punitive measures you might face depends on whether you are a first-time or repeat offender along with extenuating circumstances surrounding the incident.
Misdemeanor DWI charges are divided into five levels that carry the following consequences:
- Level V – Minimum 24 hours in jail with a maximum of 60 days of jailtime; fine of up to $200; if prison sentence is suspended, offender must complete community service and not operate a vehicle for 30 days
- Level IV – Minimum 48 hours in jail with a maximum of 120 days of jailtime; fine of up to $500; if prison sentence is suspended, offender must complete community service and not operate a vehicle for 60 days
- Level III – Minimum 72 hours in jail with a maximum of 6 months of jailtime; fine of up to $1,000; if prison sentence is suspended, offender must complete community service and not operate a vehicle for 90 days
- Level II – Minimum 7 days in jail with a maximum of 1 year of jailtime; fine of up to $,2000; prison sentence cannot be suspended
- Level I – Minimum 30 days in jail with a maximum of 2 years of jailtime; fine of up to $4,000; prison sentence cannot be suspended
Types of Charges for DWI / DUI
The level of misdemeanor you are charged with depends largely on the circumstances surrounding the offense. Repeat offenders, those endangering minors, and those who cause injuries in accidents as a result of their impairment are more likely to receiver Level III, Level II, or Level I charges. First-time offenders without any compounding circumstances are more likely to receive the less harsh Level V or Level IV charges.
It is also possible to be charged with a felony DWI if you already have at least 3 DWI convictions on your record any time within the past 7 years. A felony DWI conviction requires a minimum of 1 year in prison, a sentence that cannot be suspended.
Commercial drivers receive harsher considerations if convicted of a DWI. There is a zero-tolerance policy in place for school bus drivers to drive while impaired. Other types of commercial drivers will lose their certification to drive their commercial vehicle for 10 days for a first offense and permanently should they be convicted a second time.
Drivers under the age of 21 also face stiff penalties and can be more easily be convicted in a suspected DWI incident. North Carolina stipulates no driver under the age of 21 can have a BAC level of 0.04 or higher, a significantly lower threshold than the legal limit for other drivers. Younger drivers can refuse to take a blood or breath test, but they can still be arrested and convicted of a DWI if an officer smells any alcohol on their breath at the time of the traffic stop.
Finally, if you are arrested for a suspected DWI while your license has been revoked as a result of a previous DWI, law enforcement has the ability to seize and sell your car. Officers have the ability to do this immediately at the time of arrest and do not have to wait until you are convicted in a trial. The only way to recover the vehicle is if it can be demonstrated the owner was not the one driving while impaired and had no active role in the incident.
Why You Need an Attorney to Defend You When Arrested for a DWI
Judges typically have a large amount of discretion in the extent of your sentencing. In cases where you have already taken a BAC test or caused serious injury, it can be difficult to avoid a conviction outright. Our Charlotte DWI defense lawyers can vigorously defend you and work to get you the most reasonable sentence possible.
At Oakhurst Legal Group, our criminal defense lawyers in Charlotte are committed to helping our clients achieve the best results possible in their case, no matter what criminal charges they face. Going up against a DWI can be frightening, but our legal team will be with you every step of the way and are prepared to go the extra mile in limiting the charge’s impact on your future. We will pursue every possible solution and strategy when arguing your case.
- Related: Expungement