In many North Carolina DWI cases, the penalties for a conviction are severe. If you are charged with driving while impaired (DWI) in this state, it’s in your best interest to seek legal representation from an experienced Winston-Salem DWI lawyer at LAWSMITH, the Law Offices of J. Scott Smith.
DWI penalties in North Carolina are complicated. DWI sentences are based on what “level” of DWI you were charged with. Sentences are based largely on whether you are charged with a Level 5 DWI (the least serious), 4, 3, 2, 1, or Aggravated Level 1 DWI (the most serious).
DWI penalties can include jail time, fines, a one-year suspension of your driver’s license, and substance abuse treatment or alcohol education classes. Convicted DWI offenders can also be ordered to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in their personal vehicles.
WHAT CAN BE “MITIGATING” FACTORS IN NORTH CAROLINA DWI CASES?
When there’s a conviction for DWI in North Carolina, before imposing the sentence, a judge will consider three kinds of factors – mitigating factors, aggravating factors, and “grossly” aggravating factors – to determine the level of the DWI offense.
Mitigating factors are the factors that work in a defendant’s favor. The judge can use mitigating factors to reduce the defendant’s sentencing level, provided that there are no grossly aggravating factors in the case. Mitigating factors may include:
- a safe driving record for the previous five years (that is, no driving offenses that were penalized with four or more driver’s license points)
- voluntarily submitting to a DWI-alcohol assessment and agreement to participate in treatment
- a blood alcohol content (BAC) level measuring at 0.09 percent or under at the time of the DWI traffic stop
- safe, lawful driving at the time of the DWI traffic stop
- impairment by a legally prescribed drug within the prescribed dosage
- completion of substance abuse assessment and recommendation plus 60 days of abstinence from alcohol consumption proven by CAM (continuous alcohol monitoring) system
- any other factor that may mitigate the severity of the offense
WHAT ARE “AGGRAVATING” FACTORS IN NORTH CAROLINA DWI CASES?
Aggravating factors are factors that work against a DWI defendant. Aggravating factors may result in a higher sentencing level, particularly if there are no mitigating factors. Under North Carolina law, aggravating factors in a DWI case can include:
- a BAC level measuring at or above 0.15 percent
- two or more convictions for driving offenses that were penalized with at least three driver’s license points within the previous five years
- particularly reckless or dangerous driving
- a DWI conviction that is more than seven years old
- driving by the defendant while the defendant’s license was revoked
- a conviction for passing a stopped school bus, for speeding to elude apprehension, or for speeding at least thirty miles per hour over the legal limit
- negligent driving leading to a reportable accident
- any other factor that aggravates the severity of the offense
WHAT ARE “GROSSLY AGGRAVATING” FACTORS?
Grossly aggravating factors result in a sentence at Level 2, Level 1, or Aggravated Level 1 (You’ll learn more below about DWI sentencing levels and penalties in North Carolina.) Grossly aggravating factors in a DWI case can include:
- a previous DWI conviction within the last seven years
- causing serious injury to another person
- having a minor under the age of 18 (or with the mental development of a child under the age of 18) as a passenger at the time of the DWI traffic stop
- having a passenger with a physical disability that cannot exit the vehicle unaided at the time of the DWI traffic stop
- a previous conviction for driving on a revoked license when the revocation was for a DWI or a related driving offense
WHAT ARE THE TYPICAL SENTENCES FOR DWI CONVICTIONS?
Listed here are the possible sentences for each of the six levels of driving while impaired offenses in North Carolina:
- A Level 5 DWI conviction is punishable with a fine of up to $200 and a jail sentence of up to 60 days.
- A Level 4 DWI conviction is punishable with a fine of up to $500 and a jail sentence of up to 120 days.
- A Level 3 DWI conviction is punishable with a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to six months.
- A Level 2 DWI conviction is punishable with a fine of up to $2,000 and a jail sentence of up to one year.
- A Level 1 DWI conviction is punishable with a fine of up to $4,000 and a jail sentence of up to two years.
- An Aggravated Level 1 DWI conviction is punishable with a fine of up to $10,000 and a jail sentence of up to 36 months.
WHEN IS DWI CHARGED AS A FELONY IN NORTH CAROLINA?
Most driving while impaired charges in North Carolina are misdemeanor charges, but you can be charged with DWI as a felony in North Carolina – and you’ll face a minimum sentence of one year in prison – if you:
- already have three DWI convictions within the previous ten years
- cause a serious injury or a fatality while driving while impaired
LAWSMITH WILL BRING YOUR CASE TO ITS BEST POSSIBLE CONCLUSION
If you are accused of driving while impaired, do not try to act as your own attorney. Seek legal representation from an experienced Winston-Salem DWI lawyer at LAWSMITH, the Law Offices of J. Scott Smith. We will bring the case against you to its best possible conclusion.
We have offices in Winston-Salem at 250 Executive Park Boulevard, Suite 100, and in Greensboro at 204 Muirs Chapel Road, Suite 104. If you need help with a DWI charge, call LAWSMITH at 336-306-8644 or use the contact form here on our website to reach us – today.