In North Carolina, as is the case in many other states, being accused of driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a legitimately “big deal.” A conviction for impaired driving risks fines, jail time, probation, substance abuse treatment, suspension of one’s driver’s license and a host of collateral consequences.
Additionally, North Carolina also imposes more severe penalties – even for first-time offenders – in the event that there are aggravating circumstances that impact the ins and outs of their situation. For example, additional penalties may be imposed if someone cause’s another person physical harm while they are operating a vehicle while impaired. Additional penalties may also be imposed if a minor is in the car at the time of an impaired driving offense.
North Carolina law
North Carolina law treats the offense of impaired driving with a minor in the vehicle under the age of 18 as a “grossly aggravating factor” for the purposes of sentencing someone who has been convicted of a DWI offense. This means that a judge is required to sentence a convicted driver – even if it is their first offense or there are other mitigating factors – to a Level One punishment. Practically speaking, this means that if you’re convicted of this specific offense, you will not be able to avoid jail time.
By understanding the aggravated nature of DWI charges if a minor was in the vehicle at the time of someone’s arrest, individual defendants may be inspired to defend against the charges they’re facing more aggressively. All too often, impaired driving defendants fail to seek proper legal guidance because they treat their charges as “no big deal.” Clearly, aggravated DWI charges are anything but.