Maybe you just had a few cold ones and thought you were fine to drive. Or you were surprised to be stopped at a DUI checkpoint, and even more surprised when the breathalyzer registered you as over the limit.
In North Carolina, getting a DUI is a serious offense. It can deplete your wallet, take away your freedom, and ruin your reputation.
If you’re pulled over on suspicion of a DUI, your blood alcohol content (or BAC) will be tested. The limits are as follows:
- 21 or older:08 BAC
- Commercial drivers: 04 BAC
- Under 21: Any BAC, zero-tolerance policy
- Prior DUI: 04
If you refuse to take a blood or breath test, you will lose your license for at least one year, and you may also be subjected to a fine. Why? Because North Carolina has an implied consent law, which requires you to submit to a test.
Misdemeanor DUI Penalties
The penalties for a DUI in North Carolina are severe and complicated. Based on your age, offense, and license type, you could face high fines, suspension or revocation of your license, jail time, community service, and higher car insurance rates.
There are 5 levels of misdemeanor DUI charges. Level V is the least serious and Level I is the most serious. For all misdemeanor charges, the driver has their license suspended immediately for 30 days with the possibility of limited driving privileges after 10 days.
Level V. A Level V misdemeanor DUI is punishable by a fine of up to $200 with a minimum jail sentence of 24 hours and a maximum of 60 days. A judge can suspend the sentence to 24 hours of jail or 24 hours of community service.
Level IV. This is punishable by a fine of up to $500 with a minimum jail sentence of 48 hours and a maximum of 120 days. A judge can suspend the sentence to 48 hours of jail or 48 hours of community service.
Level III. Level III misdemeanors have a fine of up to $1,000 with a minimum jail sentence of 72 hours and a maximum of 6 months. A judge can suspend the sentence to 72 hours of jail or 72 hours of community service.
Level II. Level II misdemeanors have a fine of up to $2,000 with a minimum jail sentence of 7 days and a maximum of 1 year. A judge can’t suspend the minimum sentence for a Level II DUI.
Level I. Level I misdemeanors have a fine of up to $4,000 with a minimum jail sentence of 30 days and a maximum of 2 years. A judge can’t suspend the minimum sentence for a Level I DUI.
Level I and II drivers are repeat offenders, persons driving with a revoked license, impaired rivers with children in the car, or impaired drivers who have hurt someone in a crash.
Felony DUI Penalties
Most people who get a DUI in North Carolina will be facing a misdemeanor. There are, however, two exceptions. If you commit vehicular manslaughter while impaired, or if you are a habitual DUI offender, you can be charged with a felony.
Habitual DUI offenders are drivers who have had 3 prior DUI convictions in the past 7 years. For these offenders, the penalties are extremely harsh. The habitual DUI statute requires a minimum jail term of 1 year, which can’t be suspended under any circumstances. Offenders will also go through a substance abuse program.
For the Best Outcome, Hire an Attorney
If you are arrested for a DUI in North Carolina, you might feel like the case is a hopeless one. This is especially true if testing was done. After all, how can you argue with evidence from a breathalyzer?
In reality, there are a number of useful defense strategies that can be used, but it takes the skill and knowledge of an experienced DUI attorney. Not only can a good DUI lawyer negotiate penalty alternatives like community service and limited driving privileges, he or she will fight to get you as close to the minimum penalties as possible, and may even be able to get your charges dropped altogether.
When choosing an attorney, look for one with extensive experience and knowledge with DUI cases and a proven track record.
About the Author
Attorney Mike Schlosser represents victims of personal injury, those charged with a crime, as well as those facing traffic charges. A former Guilford County, North Carolina District Attorney, Schlosser has been in private practice at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett since 1983 and has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 1973.