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Like other states, North Carolina has strict laws regarding drinking and driving or operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs. North Carolina law prohibits a motorist from driving with a blood alcohol content level (BAC) of .08 percent or higher. If a motorist is found to be in violation of this law, they will be charged with driving while intoxicated, or DWI.

However, a motorist can be charged with DWI without taking BAC level into account. If a motorist is visibly impaired or demonstrates signs that they are a danger to themselves or others due to their intoxication, they will be charged with DWI.

For standard DWI charges, the following penalties apply:

1st DUI Conviction

• Driver’s license suspended 1 year
• Substance abuse treatment and assessment

2nd DUI Conviction

• Driver’s license suspended for 4 years (if within 3 years of previous DUI)
• Ignition interlock device required
• Substance abuse treatment and assessment

3rd DWI Conviction

• Class “F” Felony Habitual Impaired Driving
• Imprisonment 1 year minimum
• Driver’s license permanently suspended
• Ignition interlock device may be allowed if license is restored
• Possible vehicle forfeiture
• Substance abuse treatment and assessment

Factors Leading to DWI in North Carolina

While the standard BAC minimum is the main way a motorist is charged and subsequently punished for DWI, North Carolina has some of the most intricate rules for determining whether or not a person will be charged with DWI, and if so, how the punishments will be issued.

In North Carolina, several factors are taken into consideration before a person is charged with DWI. DWIs can be issued based on grossly aggravating factors, aggravating factors and mitigating factors.

If a driver is found guilty of a grossly aggravated factor, their DWI punishments are the most severe. If a motorist only has one grossly aggravating factor against them, then they will be issued a “Level Two Punishment.” If a driver has two gross aggravating factors against them when arrested for DWI, they will be issued “Level One Punishment,” which is the most severe.

The grossly aggravating factors are as follows:

• Driver has a previous DWI conviction in the past 7 years
• Driver incurred DWI while driving with a suspended license due to prior DWI charge
• Driver was traveling with a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle at the time of arrest
• Driver caused serious injury to another person while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Level One Punishment

• Imprisonment from 30 days to 2 years
• Fine up to $4,000

Level Two Punishment

• Imprisonment from 7 days to 1 year
• Fine up to $2,000

Aggravating and mitigating factors are slightly less serious factors involved in determining DWI punishments, but are still severe.

Aggravating Factors
• Driver has a BAC level at or above .15 percent
• Driver is guilty of reckless driving
• Driver caused an accident while driving intoxicated
• Driver was operating vehicle with a revoked license while intoxicated
• Driver has previous DWI convictions
• Driver was speeding in attempt to outrun officers
• Driver was traveling 30 mph over legal limit
• Driver passed a school bus illegally

Mitigating Factors

• Driver exhibited slight impairment without BAC test
• Driver has previous safe driving record
• Driver’s BAC level was under .09 percent
• Driver was not guilty of reckless driving
• Driver was under the influence of prescribed/legal medication
• driver voluntarily submitted to assessment

Based on the number of aggravated and mitigating factors, a judge will make an appropriate ruling on the DWI offender based on the following criteria:

• if aggravating factors outnumber mitigating factors, DWI offender may receive Level Three Punishment
• If there are no aggravated or mitigating factors or if factors are balanced then DWI offender may receive Level Four Punishment
• If the mitigating factors outnumber aggravated factors then DWI offender may receive Level Five Punishment

If a motorist is convicted of aggravated and mitigating factors, then the following punishments may be imposed. Driver may get one or a combination of the following:

Level Three Punishment

• Imprisonment for 72 hours
• Community service for 72 hours
• Fine up to $500

Level Four Punishment

• Imprisonment for 48 hours
• Community service for 48 hours
• Fine up to $500

Level Five Punishment

• Imprisonment up to 24 hours
• Community service for 24 hours
• Fine up to $200

Other DWI Laws and Punishments in North Carolina

• Punishment will be stricter if motorist is found to have an open container in the car at the time of arrest
• Driver is required to install ignition interlock in all vehicles that are registered under their name
• Driver need only have a BAC level of .04 percent to be charged with DWI if they are caught driving while intoxicated for the second time
• Any alcohol consumption will merit a DWI if driver is arrested for third DWI
• Any motorist with a BAC level of .16 percent or higher will be ordered to install ignition interlock device before license is reinstated

Minors Found Guilty of DWI in North Carolina

North Carolina imposes Zero Tolerance when it comes to minors driving while intoxicated. Any person under the age of 21 found operating a motor vehicle with any alcohol in their system will have their driver’s license suspended for 1 year.

Implied Consent Laws

In North Carolina, an implied consent law is in place and requires drivers to submit to chemical testing to determine alcohol or drug concentrations in their system. If a motorist refuses to submit to testing, they will have their driver’s license immediately suspended for 30 days and must appear in court for further sentencing, which could lead their license to be suspended for an additional year.

Obtaining Legal Help

If you have been charged with DWI in North Carolina, you should seek the help of an acclaimed North Carolina DWI attorney right away before punishments are incurred. A DWI conviction can completely ruin your life, influencing your job, finances and even civil rights. In order to battle your charge and make sure that your rights are upheld, hiring a top DWI lawyer is always the right choice.

Your DWI attorney will see to it that your charges are either reduced or completely wiped out, especially if there were any errors involved in your arrest. Many times, motorists are charged with DWI unfairly, either because of insufficient evidence or because of a faulty breathalyzer test. No matter what your individual situation is, you can rest assured that your case will end with the best possible outcome when you have an elite DWI lawyer in North Carolina fighting for your rights.

Contact the offices of a leading team of DWI attorneys in North Carolina today to get started on your case.