Drivers in North Carolina understand the dangers of drinking and driving. This dangerous activity is illegal in all 50 states, and North Carolina delivers harsh penalties for those found driving while intoxicated (DWI).

Knowing how North Carolina lawmakers issue DWI penalties can help residents refrain from drinking and driving. Full comprehension of the law can help an attorney formulate a defense and protect one’s rights.

Five levels of offense in North Carolina

North Carolina considers DWI a misdemeanor and will administer penalties based on the severity of the crime. A judge will determine the level of charge based on a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC), driving history, prescription drugs, and the nature of the DWI charge (reckless maneuvers, speeding, collision, etc.). Legal experts consider North Carolina’s DWI laws some of the most complex in the country:

  1. Level V: The least serious DWI charge, penalties include up to $200 in fines and up to 60 days in jail. A judge can reduce jail time to 24 hours with community service and license suspension.
  2. Level IV: Fines increase to $500 and jail time between 48 hours and 120 days. Judges can commute the sentence like a Level V charge.
  3. Level III: Those charged face fines up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail. Convicts can reduce jail time with community service.
  4. Level II: At Level II, judges can no longer suspend jail time. Fines increase to $2,000 and those charged will spend between seven days and one year in jail.
  5. Level I: Offenders face up to $4,000 in fines and a jail sentence between 30 days and two years.

Judges usually reserve Level I and II charges for repeat offenders, drivers with suspended or revoked licenses and those who endangered or injured another while driving under the influence. Drivers face increased penalties if they refuse a test, commit a DWI while operating a commercial vehicle or commit a DWI while under 21. Habitual DWI offenders who incur three or more charges within seven years incur felony charges.

Charged with a DWI? Consider legal counsel

DWI offenders find more success in reducing their sentencing level with help from a local attorney familiar with North Carolina’s complex DWI laws. A lawyer can help formulate the proper defense, protect their client’s rights and work with the judge on appropriate sentencing.