If you were arrested for DWI in North Carolina, it is essential to understand the judicial process in our state. DWIs are not taken lightly in North Carolina and carry stiff penalties, including a criminal record and loss of license. However, there are ways to mitigate the damage and protect your future. In this blog post, we will discuss the steps you need to take if you face DWI charges in North Carolina.

North Carolina DWI Laws

Every DWI conviction starts with an arrest. Let’s say an officer of the law sees evidence of negligent driving while you’re coming back from a friend’s house.

North Carolina DWI law states that they may stop you and ask you to take chemical testing, field tests, or a breath test for blood alcohol concentration testing. If drunk driving is a factor the police officer may cite you for an impaired driving offense. In NC, this is called a DWI (Driving While Impaired).

You’ll face NC DWI arrest (and up to 48 hours in jail before a judge decides about your bail) if you:

  • Fail a field sobriety test
  • You refuse a breathalyzer (BAC test) or a chemical blood test to display your blood alcohol level or other impairing substances
  • Your breathalyzer test exceeds the legal limit of .08% (or higher) blood alcohol content, or BAC.
  • Your breathalyzer test is over the legal limit of .04% blood alcohol content for commercial drivers
  • Chemical testing shows other substances causing your impaired driving

The DWI laws in North Carolina can be complicated, and understanding the basics is the first step to protecting your future. DWIs are “violent” criminal offenses in North Carolina, so you should consult with a DWI attorney immediately after arrest.

What to Do When Facing a DWI in North Carolina

After being arrested for DWI in North Carolina, you must take the right steps to mitigate the damage.

First, consult with a DWI attorney in your area as soon as possible. An experienced DWI lawyer can help by making sure all of your rights are protected, and that police officers handle any evidence against you properly. An attorney can also help explain what may happen if you are convicted of DWI and provide advice on how best to proceed.

Next, research DWI courses or classes offered in your county through a local rehab center or other organization. Completing these courses demonstrates responsibility and can be beneficial when negotiating with prosecutors after a DWI arrest.

You can find many different DWI defenses with a knowledgeable lawyer. Your best chance to avoid a conviction is with an experienced DWI attorney!

Consequences of Breaking NC DWI Laws

The penalties for DWI convictions depend on a few factors, including the type of DWI and whether it is a first or subsequent DWI offense.

A single DWI conviction in North Carolina can cost you thousands of dollars, including increased insurance costs, up to $10,000 in court costs and attorney fees, time away from work, loss of driver’s license, and more. In fact, a DWI conviction can raise your insurance rates by 340%!!

A DWI conviction can cause you to pay for the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID). You can face license suspension for a year, even with a first-offense DWI charge. You may apply for limited driving privileges, but these are not guaranteed.

If the judge suspends the sentence, you may only lose your license for 30 days. However, if you face conviction of DWI, you will lose your license for an entire year!

Unfortunately, a DWI conviction in North Carolina will follow you for the rest of your life. Even worse, our state does not allow the expungement of such charges. Therefore, as a person convicted of DWI, finding housing or a job with your criminal record will be hard.

An experienced attorney knowledgeable in DWI defense law can bring the best outcome for your case!

Criminal Record 

A criminal record can effectively prevent you from getting jobs or apartments and will show up on any background checks for volunteer positions or if someone else wants to find out more about you online.

No Expungement

A DWI conviction will stay on your record forever, changing the course of your life and limiting opportunities for years to come.

Seizure and Forfeiture of Vehicles

If you are driving after a previous license revocation, a law enforcement officer can immediately seize your car if they decide to charge you with DWI. If convicted, your vehicle will be forfeited.

Loss of Your Job

If you are a commercial, school bus, activity bus, or childcare driver, your first DWI can disqualify you from driving your commercial vehicle for 10 days. Another DWI offense revokes your license for ANY kind of driving.

Driver’s License Revocation If You are Under Age 21 

North Carolina takes juvenile drinking and driving seriously. The limit on the amount of alcohol you may consume and drive is practically zero. If you are pulled over and take a breathalyzer with the results above 0.04 or if you refuse the test and the officer can smell alcohol on your breath, you can lose your license for a year.

Driver’s License Revocation After DWI Conviction

The state may revoke your license for one year for a first-offense conviction. If your driving record shows that this is not your first offense DWI, you could end up serving a mandatory one-year jail sentence.

You can lose your license for three years if convicted of a DWI again within three years. North Carolina’s Habitual Impaired Driving statute requires a one-year jail sentence for offenders with three prior convictions in the past seven years.

Sometimes, the judge will grant a limited driving privilege if you:

  • Did not hurt anyone.
  • Did not have a child under sixteen years of age in the car.
  • You obtain a substance abuse DWI assessment.

If you want to get your license back, an alcohol assessment generally recommends the completion of a treatment program. If convicted, you must go through a substance abuse program either while in jail or as part of your parole conditions.

Working with an experienced lawyer can help you find the best strategy if you’re arrested for a DWI and have multiple convictions

DWI Conviction Penalties

NC DWI levels determine your DWI penalties and sentencing guidelines. The state may consider you a repeat offender if you have a prior conviction for DWI.

Minimum Level V

Even with this lowest level of DWI in NC, you can face fines up to $200 and a minimum jail sentence of 24 hours. You can spend up to 60 days in jail, depending on whether the judge suspends your sentence. The judge may also order you to perform 24 hrs community service and not drive a car for 30 days or more.

Level IV

The second lowest level of DWI in NC can bring fines up to $500 and a minimum jail sentence of 48 hours. You can face a prison sentence of up to 120 days, depending on whether the judge suspends your sentence. The judge may also order you to perform 48 hrs community service and not drive a car for 60 days or more.

Level III

A Level 3 DWI in NC can bring fines up to $1,000 and a minimum jail sentence of 72 hours. You can spend up to 6 months in jail, depending on whether the judge suspends your sentence. The judge may also order you to perform 72 hrs community service and not drive a car for 90 days or more.

Level II

A Level 2 DWI in NC can bring fines up to $2,000 and a minimum jail sentence of 7 days. You can also spend up to 1 year in prison and face a probationary period.

Level I

A Level 1 DWI in NC can bring fines up to $4,000 and a minimum jail sentence of 30 days. You can also spend up to 2 years in prison and face a probationary period.

Aggravated Level I

An Aggravated Level 1 DWI in NC can bring fines up to $10,000 and a minimum jail sentence of one year! You can also spend up to 3 years in prison and face a probationary period.

Aggravating and Mitigating Factors

If arrested for DWI, a judge will use North Carolina law to consider whether aggravating factors exist. Aggravating and grossly aggravating factors can contribute to harsher penalties. However, when mitigating factors outweigh aggravating factors, the judge may see you more favorably during sentencing.

We Can Help

Get in touch with us at Hogan, Edwards, and Blue if DWI charges in North Carolina have you worried and stressed! Our legal experts are here to help craft a strategic defense and get your life back on track.

At Hogan, Edwards, and Blue, we offer free consultations so that you can focus on what’s important: your case. We’ll review the evidence with you and help you make the best decisions for your future.

Allow us to shoulder the weight during this difficult time. Contact us today and find out how we can help!