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DUI in North Carolina

DWI in North Carolina

North Carolina DUI lawyers represent drivers through out North Carolina who have been arrested for "driving under the influence" or DUI. The goal of a DUI lawyer is to evaluate the driver's DUI case and let the driver know all of their legal options.

Whether this is your first or fourth DUI arrest it is important to get the specific facts of your DUI charge before making a plea.

DUI in North Carolina
North Carolina drivers face can be arrested for driving under the influence or DUI if the person operates a motor vehicle on any street or highway while they are:

  • Under the influence of an impairing substance
  • Their blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent or more
  • They have any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance or its metabolites in their blood or urine.

North Carolina drivers can arrest a driver who they believe is intoxicated. Evidence for intoxication or driving under the influence is gathered by reviewing the driver's driving patterns or performing a field sobriety test. If a driver has a BAC over the legal limit, the office can arrest them for DUI without witnessing any appreciable impairment.

Penalties for DUI in North Carolina

North Carolina drivers who have been arrested for DUI face a variety of severe penalties and unlike other states, the courts do not use a simple tiered system to assess penalties, but instead the courts consider a variety of mitigating or aggravating factors prior to sentencing the driver to the appropriate level of DWI penalties.

The information provided below can be used as a guide, but it is important to contact a North Carolina DUI lawyer for information about specific penalties regarding your DUI case.

Level 5 DUI Offense
Least Severe

  • Jail term for a required 1 day but no more than 2 months (community service may be served in lieu of jail term for 1 day at judge's discretion)
  • Fines up to $200

Level 4 DUI Offense

  • Jail term for at least 2 days but no more than 4 months (community service may be served in lieu of 2 day minimum jail term)
  • Fines up to $500

Level 3 DUI Offense

  • Jail term for at least 3 days but no more than 6 months (community service may be served in lieu of 3 day minimum)
  • Fines up to $1,000

Level 2 DUI Offense

  • Jail term for at least 7 days but no more than 1 year with possible probation after the first 7 days.
  • Fines up to $2,000

Level 1 DUI Offense
Most Severe

  • Jail term for at least 30 days but no more than 2 years (community service may be served in lieu of 30 day days minimum)
  • Fines up to $4,000

Determining DUI Penalties
The court will assess grossly aggravating factors prior to determining the DUI penalties for a DUI conviction in North Carolina. If more than two of the following grossly aggravating factors are present, the court will impose level two DUI penalties.

  • The driver caused serious injuries to another driver.
  • The driver drove with an underage child in the car (less than 16 years of age)
  • The driver did not have a valid license because their license had been previously revoked due to a previous DUI conviction.
  • The driver had a previous DUI arrest within 7 years.

Additional mitigating and aggravating factors can also be considered. Level 3 DUI penalties are assessed if the court determines the following aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating factors.

Level 5 punishment is assessed if the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating factors. What if the mitigating factors and the aggravating factors are equally important? The court will impose Level 4 DUI penalties.

Aggravating factors for a North Carolina DUI

  • Gross impairment of the defendant's faculties while driving or an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more within a relevant time after the driving. For purposes of this subdivision, the results of a chemical analysis presented at trial or sentencing shall be sufficient to prove the person's alcohol concentration, shall be conclusive, and shall not be subject to modification by any party, with or without approval by the court.
  • Especially reckless or dangerous driving.
  • Negligent driving that led to a reportable accident.
  • Driving by the defendant while his driver's license was revoked.
  • Two or more prior convictions of a motor vehicle offense not involving impaired driving for which at least three points are assigned under G.S. 20-16 or for which the convicted person's license is subject to revocation, if the convictions occurred within five years of the date of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced, or one or more prior convictions of an offense involving impaired driving that occurred more than seven years before the date of the offense for which the driver is being accused.
  • Conviction of speeding by the defendant while fleeing or attempting to elude apprehension.
  • Conviction of speeding by the defendant by at least 30 miles per hour over the legal limit.
  • Passing a stopped school bus in violation of G.S. 20-217.
  • Any other factor that aggravates the seriousness of the offense.

Information gathered from the NC General Statutes - Chapter 20, pg. 340

Mitigating factors for a North Carolina DUI

  • Slight impairment of the defendant's faculties resulting solely from alcohol and an alcohol concentration that did not exceed 0.09 at any relevant time after the driving.
  • Slight impairment of the defendant's faculties, resulting solely from alcohol, with no chemical analysis having been available to the defendant.
  • Driving at the time of the offense that was safe and lawful except for the impairment of the defendant's faculties.
  • A safe driving record, with the defendant's having no conviction for any motor vehicle offense for which at least four points are assigned under G.S. 20-16 or for which the person's license is subject to revocation within five years of the date of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced.
  • Impairment of the defendant's faculties caused primarily by a lawfully prescribed drug for an existing medical condition, and the amount of the drug taken was within the prescribed dosage.
  • The defendant's voluntary submission to a mental health facility for assessment after he was charged with the impaired driving offense for which he is being sentenced, and, if recommended by the facility, his voluntary participation in the recommended treatment.
  • Completion of a substance abuse assessment, compliance with its recommendations, and simultaneously maintaining 60 days of continuous abstinence from alcohol consumption, as proven by a continuous alcohol monitoring system. The continuous alcohol monitoring system shall be of a type approved by the Department of Correction.

Information gathered from the NC General Statutes - Chapter 20, pg. 341

Hiring a North Carolina DUI Attorney
Have you been arrested for DUI in North Carolina? North Carolina DUI laws and subsequent penalties can be complicated. They can also be very serious, especially if the court decides you were habitually impaired which can occur if you have been convicted of a DUI 3 times within a 10 year period. Habitually impaired drivers may face a Class F felony conviction which included a permanent driver's license revocation and a jail term up to one year.

If you have injured or killed someone you could also be facing a very long prison sentence. Do not try to fight your DUI charge alone. Call a North Carolina DUI lawyer for a free consultation.