In North Carolina, driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while impaired (DWI) is a common crime.
Because of this, many think they know what to expect should a DUI happen to them in Greensboro, but the truth is that DUIs are a little more complex than blowing in a tube and being placed under arrest.
Do you think you know everything about DUI laws in North Carolina? Here are a few things that may surprise you.
Are You Being Charged with a North Carolina DUI…Or DWI?
There are two terms often used interchangeably — DUI and DWI — and in some states the difference between the two matters. As far as North Carolina law enforcement is concerned? It doesn’t.
Driving under the influence of alcohol can be called either:
- DUI – Driving under the influence
- DWI – Driving while intoxicated
…and when you’re caught driving after drinking, you’re in for it. If you’re charged in Greensboro with impaired or drunk driving as the result of drugs or alcohol, then you are subject to the same legal penalties
Know the Consequences Before You Put the Key in the Ignition
In North Carolina, there are five levels of DUIs and you can learn about each of them here. The point we’re trying to drive home today is that driving drunk can cost you more than a pretty penny. Check out the consequences for each DUI charge level:
- Level V – When charged with this level, defendants face a fine of up to $200 and jail from 24 hours to 60 days
- Level IV – Drivers charged with this level face a jail sentence that can range between 48 hours and 120 days as well as fines up to $500
- Level III – This level is punishable by a jail sentence between 72 hours and six months as well as fines up to $1,000
- Level II – This level requires a minimum jail sentence of seven days with a maximum sentence of one year and fines amounting to $2,000
- Level I – If convicted of this level, drivers can be fined up to $4,000 and spend anywhere from 30 days in jail to two years
- Aggravated Level I – The most serious level to be convicted of, this level can result in up to a $10,000 fine and a jail sentence up to three years
North Carolina May Go Easy on a First-Time DUI Offender
A first offense is exactly what it sounds like: The first time you are stopped and arrested for driving under the influence.
For a first-time offense, the punishment is generally lower than repeat offenders. In North Carolina, first-time offenders are subject to misdemeanors. The punishment correlates with level V sentences and fines, as well as a driver’s license suspension of up to one year.
With the right DUI defense attorney, a first-time offender may also obtain special driving privileges for traveling to work or school. The trade-off? You may also have to complete a substance abuse assessment or probation.
It’s important to note that first-time offenders may get off relatively easy, but if a first-timer is charged with another DUI within 3 years of their first conviction, they can have their license suspended for four years maximum.
You Don’t Have to Be Driving to Be Charged with a DUI in NC
One thing people assume about DUIs is that you must be driving a vehicle in order to get one. The truth is, the current law uses the terms “operator” and “driver” interchangeably.
In the eyes of North Carolina law enforcement, you simply need to be in the driver’s seat to be considered a vehicle operator. The vehicle can be in motion or simply be running in order for someone to be identified as the vehicle operator and be charged with a DUI.
What Happens to Your Vehicle in North Carolina?
You probably already know that as you’re being hauled away, a tow truck is busy hauling your vehicle to impoundment as well. Many people are aware that North Carolina can seize a vehicle if someone is arrested for a DUI, but did you know they can also sell it?
That’s right. Repeat DUI offenders can not only have their vehicle seized, but sold by the state.
Under certain circumstances, the law allows the state to sell your impounded vehicle to cover outstanding tow bills and the costs associated with storage while you’re busy dealing with your DUI case. Another reason to have the right DUI attorney on your side.
The Message to North Carolinians: Steer Clear of DUIs
DUIs are something you should aim to steer clear of. Always drink responsibly and make sure when you’re taking medication, even if prescribed by a doctor, you do not operate a vehicle. There are even apps you can download to help you avoid a DUI. If you don’t take these precautions, you can find yourself in court facing a DUI charge.