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What Are the Levels of DWI in NC?


Driving in North Carolina with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08 percent is illegal, and you could face a DWI charge if you’re caught. Many states sort driving under the influence charges into several tiers, and North Carolina’s laws are no different. Understanding how North Carolina categorizes and penalizes DWI offenses is essential to an effective defense. Any DWI charge has the potential to negatively impact your life, making it critical to defend and reduce the impact of the possible consequences. 

What Are the Levels of DWI in North Carolina?

North Carolina’s drunk driving laws categorize these offenses into different levels, with Level I addressing the most severe DWI cases and Level V dealing with the least serious. Level I convictions result in fines up to $4,000 and a minimum of 30 days in jail up to two years. Level V convictions result in fines up to $200 and a minimum of 24 hours up to 60 days in jail. Level V sentences can be suspended at the judge’s discretion in exchange for certain stipulations. 

The DWI level and the consequences depend on mitigating and aggravating factors presented at trial and, if convicted, at sentencing. 

Additionally, North Carolina is an implied consent state, which means you inherently consent to a breathalyzer or other chemical analysis by driving on North Carolina roads. While you can refuse a breathalyzer at a traffic stop, NC’s implied consent statutes impose additional penalties on top of other consequences you may face if you refuse. 

What Factors Influence the Consequences of a DWI Conviction?

Judges evaluate several mitigating and aggravating factors when sentencing a person who’s been convicted of DWI. Some of the factors that influence an individual’s penalties after a DWI conviction include: 

  • Prior DWI Offenses – Being a repeat offender can infer a pattern of reckless behavior and could increase the potential penalties for a subsequent DWI charge. 
  • Potential Injury – If you severely hurt someone while driving under the influence, it can increase the punishment, as your action caused serious harm. 
  • Degree of Impairment – The higher your BAC levels, the more likely you are to suffer severe consequences for your actions. 
  • Driving History – Driving dangerously before being stopped by law enforcement could increase the potential penalties as it demonstrates a disregard for other motorists. Additionally, a history of safe driving can lead a judge to levy reduced penalties. 
  • Passenger Occupancy – Drunk driving with a minor or a mentally or physically disabled person in the car can demonstrate a lack of care for passengers, increasing punishments at sentencing. 
  • Lawful Prescriptions – Some prescriptions have side effects that can mimic intoxication. If this prescription, in a lawfully obtained and taken dose, caused the impairment, the judge will take that into account, and it could reduce your penalty. 

What Are the Consequences of a DWI in North Carolina? 

The potential consequences of a DWI charge, regardless of the specific level, can include: 

  • Fines
  • Jail time
  • Probation
  • Mandatory community service 
  • License suspension or revocation
  • Increased car insurance premiums

The implications of a DWI charge can affect your life long-term, including: 

  • Making it difficult to rent or purchase property
  • Hindering your ability to maintain employment
  • Preventing you from keeping or obtaining a professional license
  • Limiting your driving privileges and abilities 

Contact a Winston Salem DWI Attorney Today

If you’re facing a DWI charge in Winston-Salem, you need experienced legal help. The criminal defense attorneys at Greenwood Law will present a vigorous defense to protect your rights and future. We know facing DWI charges is a terrifying experience, but we’ll protect you and your rights. Reach out today to get started.

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