A lot of people have made the mistake of drinking too much before driving. If you enjoy drinking alcohol, you probably think about whether you’re too impaired to drive. It can be a delicate balance and, too often, people make mistakes.
If you’ve been arrested for DWI in North Carolina, the penalties grow with each additional offense and when there are special circumstances such as an accident, a child in the car, or if you were driving on a license suspended due to a prior DWI offense.
There are seven levels of DWI charges in North Carolina, with the least serious being a Level 5 misdemeanor and the most serious being a felony DWI charge. A Level 5 DWI is what you might face for a simple first offense.
Once you have been convicted of one DWI offense, the penalties for another offense go up. For example, a second offense might be charged as a Level 4 misdemeanor. This carries double the minimum jail sentence of a Level 5 DWI, nearly twice the fine, and twice the community service requirement for a suspended sentence.
A Level 3 DWI is more serious. A conviction carries the penalty of 72 hours minimum jail time, a $1,000 fine, and a requirement that you spend 72 hours doing community service if your sentence is suspended.
Once you reach Level 2, the sentence can no longer be suspended, and it must include a minimum of 7 days and up to one year in jail, a $2,000 fine and no limited driving privilege.
For a Level 1 misdemeanor, you’ll spend a minimum of 30 days in jail (up to 2 years) and pay a $4,000 fine. Your sentence cannot be suspended, and no limited driving privilege is available.
The most serious of the misdemeanor DWI charges is Level A1. Here, your minimum jail sentence is 12 months (maximum 36 months) and your fine could be up to $10,000. Your sentence cannot be suspended, and no limited driving privilege is available.
Finally, for habitual offenders, or in cases where a death or serious injury results from the charge, DWI can be charged as a felony. A habitual offender is one with three prior DWI convictions within seven years. A conviction puts you in jail for at least a year, and that sentence cannot be suspended. You will also have to undergo a substance abuse program.
If you are facing DWI charges, don’t make admissions and don’t plead guilty without talking to a lawyer. There may be legal maneuvers an attorney can make to reduce the charges or penalties.