Although driving while drunk is illegal in all 50 states, each state gets to set its own rules and regulations regarding impaired driving and the penalties that drivers accused of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol face. North Carolina has some of the most unique and unusual rules regarding how they handle driving while impaired (DWI).

A DWI offense can result in penalties ranging from a fine and the loss of your license to up to two years in jail just for a first DWI offense. However, there is a substantial discrepancy between the minimum possible penalties and the maximum penalties.

That discrepancy results from the state categorizing DWIs on five different levels, with Level V being the least severe and Level I being the most severe. Aggravating factors are typically what results in someone’s charges getting moved up from a Level 5 offense to a more significant level.

What details can influence the exact penalties you face?

There are multiple aggravating factors that can result in North Carolina increasing the level of your offense and the penalties you could potentially face. Having a very high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is one of those aggravating factors.

Your BAC will typically be over 0.08% if officers arrest you. However, if you get caught with a BAC of 0.15% or higher, which is almost double the legal limit, that will become an aggravating factor in your case. Having minors in your vehicle could be another aggravating factor, as could causing a crash or property damage.

If you flee from police, speed while driving while impaired, or drive in a particularly dangerous or reckless manner, that could aggravate the charges you face. Your previous record will also matter, as prior DWI convictions or serious vehicle offenses could also aggravate your charges.

The more serious the level, the less leeway you have

Generally speaking, there are minimum penalties associated with a DWI charge, although the judge hearing a case can waive the minimum penalties for DWI offenses between Level V and III. The same is not true for someone whose circumstances justify Level II or I charges.

The more serious the level of charges you face, the more important it becomes to consider a defense against pending DWI charges.