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What are the Different Levels of a DWI in North Carolina?


It was in early September when a woman allegedly struck and killed two pedestrians while driving drunk. The crash is still under investigation and due to the fact that we do not know all of the facts, it is impossible to know what level of DWI the woman will face. North Carolina has five levels of a misdemeanor DWI, with the first level being the most serious charge and the fifth level being the least severe.

Grossly Aggravating Factors in a DWI

To determine the level of any DWI, the grossly aggravating factors of the case must be analyzed. The aggravating factors are as follows:

  • The defendant had a prior conviction for a DWI within the past seven years of arrest. Each prior offense is considered a separate aggravating factor.
  • The accused was driving on a revoked or suspended license due to a prior DWI.
  • The defendant caused serious injury to another person during the DWI.
  • At the time of the DWI, the defendant had in their vehicle a minor, an individual with the mental capacity of a minor, or a person with a physical disability that prevented them from leaving the vehicle on their own.

A DWI with one aggravating factor will increase the DWI to a level two, while two or more will increase the level of the DWI to a one, the most serious.

Aggravating and Mitigating Factors

When no grossly aggravating factors are present, a DWI is considered a level 3, 4, or 5. To determine which level this type of DWI would fall into, you must examine the aggravating and mitigating factors. Aggravating factors in DWI cases include:

  • An alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more, or a gross impairment of the defendant’s ability to drive safely
  • Exhibiting gross recklessness while driving
  • Negligent driving that led to an accident serious enough it was reportable
  • Driving on a suspended or revoked license
  • Two or more previous convictions for traffic violations not associated with DIW, but that caused the driver to incur at least three points on their license
  • A conviction for speeding while fleeing or attempting to flee law enforcement, or while traveling over 30 miles over the legal limit
  • Passing a school bus that was stopped at the time

Mitigating factors in DWIs are as follows:

  • Slight impairment when the defendant had an alcohol concentration blow 0.09 percent
  • With the exception of impairment, the defendant was driving safely at the time
  • No prior convictions for any traffic offense that results in four or more points assigned to the accused’s license
  • Impairment due to a prescribed drug that was administered properly
  • Voluntary admittance by the defendant into a mental health facility

Even when only mitigating factors were present, it is still important anyone charged with a DWI speaks to a criminal defense lawyer.

Our North Carolina Criminal Defense Lawyer can Help with Your Case

If you have been accused of a DWI, you need the right North Carolina criminal lawyer to help with your case. At Hauter Law Firm, PC, our attorneys have the necessary experience to help you beat the charges or get them reduced to a lesser charge. Call us today at 252-226-6878 to schedule a free confidential consultation and to receive the legal advice you need.



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