In North Carolina, if an officer of the law has reasonable suspicion to pull you over and give you a breathalyzer test, you could potentially be charged with a “Driving While Impaired” or DWI. In our state, a DWI is the same thing as a DUI.

You can get a DWI if you drive a vehicle while impaired or with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher. The limit goes down to .04 when operating a commercial motor vehicle. You can ALSO get a DWI if you are taking drugs that affect your ability to drive. New laws in NC allow law enforcement officers to give chemical tests that identify other drugs in your system.

If you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test, your license can be immediately suspended for 30 days and then up to one year as a consequence of refusing the test, whether or not you are eventually convicted of DWI.

If you are charged with a DWI, you’ll want to know what the DWI charge means and how it can affect your life.

Five Levels of Misdemeanor DWI Convictions

 There are five levels of misdemeanor DWI, with Level 1 being the most serious.  Even a Level 5 DWI can have serious consequences. This is not a crime that you want to be charged with. Take a look at the explanation of consequences from the NC Department of Public Safety for each level:

Level V

Punishable by a fine up to $200 and a minimum jail sentence of 24 hours and a maximum of 60 days. A judge can suspend the sentence but upon completion that the driver spend 24 hours in jail, perform 24 hours of community service or not operate a vehicle for 30 days.

Level IV

Punishable by a fine up to $500 and a minimum jail sentence of 48 hours and a maximum of 120 days. A judge can suspend the sentence but upon completion that the driver spend 48 hours in jail, perform 48 hours of community service or not operate a vehicle for 60 days.

Level III

Punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and a minimum jail sentence of 72 hours and a maximum of six months. A judge can suspend the sentence only upon completion, that the driver spend at least 72 hours in jail, perform 72 hours of community service or not operate a vehicle for 90 days.

Level II

Punishable by a fine up to $2,000 and a minimum jail sentence of seven days and a maximum of one year. A judge CANNOT suspend the minimum sentence.

Level I

Punishable by a fine up to $4,000 and a minimum jail sentence of 30 days and a maximum of two years. A judge CANNOT suspend the minimum sentence.

High-Level DWI Misdemeanor Charge

If you receive a Level 1 or 2 charge of misdemeanor DWI, you probably fall into one of these categories:

You are a repeat offender.

  • Your license is revoked.
  • You are an impaired driver who is transporting young children.
  • You are an impaired driver who hurt someone in a crash.DWI Felony Charge

In North Carolina, we have a Habitual DWI felony statute that mandates a one-year jail sentence for offenders who have three prior DWI convictions within the past seven years. If you are charged with and convicted of felony DWI, you will have to go through a substance abuse program while in jail or as a condition of parole.

Consequences of DWI Conviction

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. There are many services online that keep a record of any criminal involvement.

No Expungement

If convicted of DWI, it never comes off your record. You will have this on your record your entire life and live with the consequences of your actions long-term.

Seizure and Forfeiture of Vehicles

If you are driving after your license was revoked due to a previous DWI, a law enforcement officer can immediately, at the scene, seize your car if they decide to charge you with a DWI. If you are convicted, your vehicle will be forfeited. If you are driving a friend’s vehicle, the police can still impound it and your friend will have a hassle trying to get it back.

Loss of Your Job

North Carolina takes commercial, school bus, activity bus, or childcare vehicle driving very seriously. If you are a commercial driver or a school bus, activity bus, or child care 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 with DWI Charge

You lose your license for 30 days (with limited driving privileges after 10 days) if you:

Are charged with DWI because you refuse to take a breathalyzer.

  • Have results of 0.08 or more.
  • Have results of 0.04 or more as a commercial driver.

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

For your first DWI offense conviction, your license is revoked for one year. If you are convicted again within three years, your license is revoked for four 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 assessment.

If you want to get your license back, most assessments recommend that you go to a treatment program.

Get Help

If you are charged with a DWI, consider the above consequences to a conviction as a warning that you need an attorney. Often, once you are charged with a DWI, you are in a system that cares little about what happens to you next. A DWI could have lasting consequences for life. Don’t make the mistake of believing that this is not a big deal. If you want to make sure that your rights are not trampled on, contact the experienced criminal law attorneys at Hogan, Edwards, and Blue today.

  1. https://www.ncdps.gov/our-organization/law-enforcement/state-highway-patrol/faq/driving-while-impaired