Every state in the U.S. has its own system it follows for sentencing an individual for a DWI-related offense. In the State of North Carolina, DWI offenders are sentenced using a five-level sentencing structure, with Level I being the most serious and Level V the least. If you or someone you know has been charged with DWI after causing an accident in Gastonia, NC, you could be charged with a misdemeanor DWI and your sentence would be determined using the five-tiered structure. In the event you are a habitual DWI (i.e. you had three prior DWI convictions within the past seven years), then you will be charged with a felony DWI.
What is North Carolina’s Five-Tiered Sentencing Structure?
When a driver is found guilty of DWI, they shall be sentenced using North Carolina’s five-level system. The level for which your crime falls under depends on additional factors including whether the accident you caused resulted in property damage and/or injuries, your age, how much alcohol you had in your system at the time of your arrest, whether you had a minor traveling in the vehicle with you, etc. Typically, a first-time DWI offender who is 21 years of age or older who did not cause property damage or bodily injury to another would be subjected to a Level V sentencing.
To help you understand North Carolina’s five-level sentencing structure, below we have outlined the penalties each level carries with it.
A DWI offender who is sentenced as a Level V is likely to face the following penalties:
- A fine of up to $200
- A minimum jail sentence of 24 hours and a maximum of 60 days. It is important to note that a judge can suspend the sentence but only upon completion that the driver spends 24 hours in jail, performs 24 hours of community service, or does not operate a vehicle for 30 days.
Level IV is punishable by:
- A fine of up to $500.
- A minimum jail sentence of 48 hours and a maximum of 120 days. With a Level IV, a judge can also suspend the sentence but only upon completion that the driver spends 48 hours in jail, performs 48 hours of community service, or does not operate a vehicle for 60 days.
Level III is punishable by:
- A fine of up to $1,000.
- A minimum jail sentence of 72 hours and a maximum of six months. Please note that a judge can suspend the sentence a Level III carries with it only upon completion that the driver spends at least 72 hours in jail, performs 72 hours of community service, or does not operate a vehicle for 90 days.
A DWI offender who is sentenced as a Level II is likely to face the following penalties:
- They will have to pay a fine of up to $2,000.
- Serve a minimum jail sentence of seven days and a maximum of one year. With Level II, a judge cannot suspend the minimum sentence.
With Level I, which is considered the worst of all levels, a DWI offender will be faced with the following penalties:
- A fine of up to $4,000.
- A minimum jail sentence of 30 days and a maximum of two years. Please note that with Level I, a judge cannot suspend the minimum sentence.
[Source: North Carolina Department of Public Safety].
Typically, when a driver is a repeat offender or causes an accident that has resulted in bodily injury to another, they will be subjected to the penalties a Level I or II carries with it. The North Carolina Department of Public Safety says that “impaired drivers must complete a substance abuse assessment and comply with any recommended treatment as a condition for having their driver’s license restored at the end of the revocation period.”
Now, if you were responsible for causing a drunk driving accident in Gastonia, NC and you need help understanding your charges, contact J. Boyce Garland, Jr., Attorney at Law to speak with a Gastonia, NC drunk driving accident lawyer.
Boyce Garland, Jr., Attorney at Law can be reached at:
223 W. Main Avenue, Suite G,
Gastonia, NC 28052