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North Carolina DWI Penalties

After a DWI arrest, you probably know that you are facing a driver’s license suspension and a significant fine, but you may not be aware that jail time is also a very real possibility. In addition, the penalties increase dramatically if you have previous DWI convictions, so even if this is your first DWI, there are many reasons you may want to fight the charges with the help of an experienced DWI defense attorney, both for your immediate and long-term future. North Carolina DWI lawyer Rashad Hauter has abundant experience in North Carolina DWI cases, including prosecuting DWI cases statewide as a Special Resource Prosecutor. Read more about the possible penalties for DWI conviction in North Carolina, and contact Hauter Law Firm, PC in North Carolina and Henderson if you have been arrested for drunk driving in Vance or Wake County.

Aggravating Factors and Level of Offense

The penalties you can face for DWI depend upon what level of offense you are charged at. These levels are determined by the presence (or absence) of aggravating or mitigating factors in your case. Aggravating Factors are:

  • Having a BAC of .15% or more
  • Guilty of reckless driving or causing an accident
  • Driving on a revoked license
  • Having two or more prior motor vehicle convictions (not DWI) in the last five years
  • Having a prior DWI that is more than seven years old
  • Speeding to elude the police
  • Speeding more than 30 mph over the posted speed limit
  • Passing a school bus illegally

There are also Grossly Aggravating Factors which can get you charged at a higher level. These factors are:

  • Having a prior DWI in the last seven years
  • Driving with license suspended or revoked for previous DWI
  • Causing serious injury to another while driving
  • Driving with a child under 18 in the vehicle

Finally, there are a number of Mitigating Factors which can actually help your case and get you charged at a lower level. These Mitigating Factors are:

  • Showing only slight impairment when a test was unavailable
  • Having a safe driving record
  • Blowing .09% or less
  • Otherwise driving lawfully
  • Arrested for impairment by lawful use of a prescription drug
  • Voluntarily submitting for a mental health assessment

Below is a look at the penalties involved for a first offense DWI under the North Carolina sentencing law, depending upon the level:

Level V
Mitigating factors substantially outnumber aggravating factors
24 hours jail and/or community service up to 60 days
Up to $200 fine

Level IV
No aggravating or mitigating factors, or they cancel each other out
48 hours jail and/or community service up to 120 days
Up to $500 fine

Level III
Aggravating factors substantially outnumber mitigating factors
72 hours jail and/or community service up to six months
Up to $1000 fine

Level II
One grossly aggravating factor
Seven days to 12 months in jail
Up to $2,000 fine

Level I
Two grossly aggravating factors
30 days to 24 months in jail
Up to $4,000 fine

Level IA (Aggravated)
Three grossly aggravating factors
12 to 36 months in jail
Up to $4,000 fine

Penalties Increase for Subsequent Offenses

Penalties not only increase by level, but also for previous offenses. For instance, the Level V penalty for a first offense includes a minimum of 24 hours in jail or community service, a $200 fine, and a license suspension from 60 days to one year. For a second offense, the Level V penalty increases to a jail sentence from four days to 12 months, a drivers’ license suspension from one to four years, and the requirement of an Ignition Interlock Device when you do drive. For a third offense (Level V), the jail sentence is a minimum 14-30 days up to two years and a license suspension ranging from one year to a permanent license revocation.

If you qualify as a “habitual offender,” (three convictions in the last seven years), you can be charged with Felony DWI, an offense that carries a penalty of a minimum one-year jail sentence that can’t be suspended. Also, your vehicle is subject to seizure and forfeiture.

Avoid Severe DWI Penalties with the Help of an Experienced North Carolina DWI Defense Lawyer

If you have been arrested for DWI in Vance or Wake County, regardless of whether it is your first or a subsequent offense, or if you are charged at Level I through V, contact Hauter Law Firm, PC in Henderson and North Carolina for immediate assistance from a strong and aggressive DWI defense lawyer.

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