Any charges for Driving While Impaired (DWI) are quite serious, and have severe criminal and civil penalties. However, in North Carolina, not all DWIs are created equally. There are five levels of misdemeanor DWIs, as well as felony-level DWIs.
In our state, factors such as your blood alcohol content at the time of your arrest, having a minor child passenger, or injuring someone in a crash will affect the level of charges you will face. Prior DWI offenses will also elevate the level of DWI offense you are charged with.
If you are facing DWI charges, it’s very important to understand what level of DWI you’ve been charged with, and how this will affect criminal and civil penalties if you are convicted. Therefore, we’ve put together a guide covering what you should know about North Carolina’s DWI levels.
Misdemeanor DWI in North Carolina
In North Carolina, there are five levels of misdemeanor DWI, where Level I is the most serious and Level V is the least. Level I and II impaired drivers are repeat offenders, persons driving impaired with a revoked driver’s license, drivers carrying a minor child passenger, and drivers who injure someone in a DWI accident.
Below we discuss the criminal consequences for each level of misdemeanor DWI. Keep in mind that there will also be civil consequences, which we discuss below.
Level V. Punishable by a jail sentence of 24 hours – 60 days and a fine up to $200. A judge can suspend the minimum sentence if the driver spends a minimum of 24 hours in jail following the DWI arrest, performs 24 hours of community service, or does not operate a vehicle for 30 days.
Level IV. Punishable by a jail sentence of 48 hours – 120 days, and a fine up to $500. A judge can suspend the minimum sentence if the driver spends a minimum of 48 hours in jail following the DWI arrest, performs 48 hours of community service, or does not operate a vehicle for 60 days.
Level III. Punishable by a jail sentence of 72 hours – 6 months, and a fine up to $1,000. A judge can suspend the minimum sentence only if the driver spends a minimum of 72 hours in jail following the DWI arrest, performs 72 hours of community service, or does not operate a motor vehicle for 90 days.
Level II. Punishable by a jail sentence of 1-52 weeks, and a fine up to $2,000. A judge cannot suspend the minimum jail sentence.
Level I. Punishable by a jail sentence of 30-24 months, and a fine of up to $4,000. A judge cannot suspend the minimum jail sentence.
Felony DWI in North Carolina
If the impaired driver is a habitual DWI offender who has three prior DWI convictions within the last seven years, the DWI is charged as a felony. A minimum active jail sentence of one year is mandated, which cannot be suspended under any conditions. Offenders are also required to complete a substance abuse program while in jail or as a condition of parole.
Civil Consequences for North Carolina DWIs
The civil consequences of a DWI are often some of the most severe penalties, and you will receive some civil consequences regardless of the level of DWI you are charged with.
License revocation. Your driver’s license will be revoked for somewhere between 10 days and four years. A first-offense DWI conviction carries a license revocation of one year, although a judge may grant a limited driving privilege if the driver did not hurt anyone.
Ignition interlock device. An ignition interlock device is required for a second or subsequent offense, or a first offense if the blood alcohol content is 0.15% or greater at the time of arrest. The device will be installed from one to seven years.
DWI treatment programs. If convicted of a DWI, you will be required to undergo a DWI treatment program and assessment at your own expense. You will also be required to seek treatment for any underlying mental health conditions.
The seriousness of these consequences is why it’s so important to understand the laws surrounding DWIs in North Carolina, and to be proactive in fighting back to beat any DWI charges currently against you.