If you were arrested for a North Carolina DWI (Driving While Impaired), an officer believed that you were operating a motor vehicle while impaired of alcohol and/or drug(s). In North Carolina, driving under the influence (DUI) is used interchangeably with DWI. If arrested for DWI, the law enforcement officer believed that your motor skills, mental faculties and reaction times were so impaired that you were unable to operate that motor vehicle safely. Driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% or greater is considered per se, or automatically, driving under the influence of alcohol. However, you can be convicted of DWI if your BAC is below .08% if the prosecution can prove that you were operation of a vehicle was impaired.
North Carolina DWI laws are some of the strictest and most compartmentalized “levels” of DWI in the country. Strangely, DWI in North Carolina are not considered misdemeanors or felonies. Rather, the sentencing scheme is based on different levels with “Level 5” being the least punishment and “Level One” as the most severe punishment. The different levels and aggravating or mitigating circumstances, and their respective penalties can be confusing. Below, we have provided a comprehensive list of the most important information for you to inform yourself about North Carolina DWI.
North Carolina DWI Penalties
Grossly Aggravating Circumstances
North Carolina DWI punishments are subject to enhanced penalties if it’s found that a number of aggravating circumstances are present during your DWI arrest. These circumstances include, but are not limited to, having a BAC in excess of .15%, reckless driving, an attempt to escape apprehension, or passing a stopped school bus.
North Carolina DWI punishments can be augmented down if certain circumstances are present. These circumstances include, but are not limited to, your impairment was the result of lawful prescription drug use, you have a safe driving record, or the completion of a substance abuse program.
Level 5 DWI
A level 5 North Carolina DWI is the least severe DWI charge you can face. Level 5 means that there were no aggravating circumstances. Penalties can include a $200 court fine and 24 hours in jail.
Level 4 DWI
A level 4 North Carolina DWI is slightly more severe than level 5. A level 4 means that for every aggravating circumstance there is a mitigating circumstance to cancel it out – so that they are equal. Penalties can include a $500 court fine and 48 hours in jail.
Level 3 DWI
In a level 3 North Carolina DWI, a judge must find that the aggravating factors substantially outweigh the mitigating factors. Penalties can include a $1000 court fine and 72 hours in jail.
Level 2 DWI
For you to be found guilty of a level 2 North Carolina DWI, you must have had one grossly aggravating factor. Penalties can include a $2000 court fine and 7 days in jail.
Level 1 DWI
Level 1 is the most severe North Carolina DWI. Penalties can include a $4000 court fine and 30 days in jail. Additionally, if it’s found that there were two aggravating circumstances present during your arrest, your penalties can be up to a $10,000 fine and 120 days in jail.
North Carolina DWI Lawyers
A DWI arrest is not a DWI conviction. A good North Carolina DWI attorney or criminal defense attorney will be able to handle both the criminal DWI charges and the case with North Carolina DMV, regarding your license suspension or revocation. Given the complexity of what we’ve outlined above and what’s at stake – contact a local DWI attorney as soon as possible.
General North Carolina DWI Information
In North Carolina, the DWI is such, that the prosecutor only needs to show “appreciable impairment.” This simply means that they do not have to show that you were over the .08% BAC threshold. Appreciable impairment can be demonstrated by your driving patterns, your physical appearance, and your performance during field sobriety tests. All of these components used against you are highly subjective and certainly arguable by your North Carolina DWI attorney.