North Carolina has adopted a tiered approach to first-time DWI offenses, grading them from Level V as the least serious to Level I as the most serious.
Around the country, it has seemed that every state has been cracking down on drunk driving in recent years. North Carolina is no exception to this trend. While certainly it is important to protect people while on the road, it is equally important to ensure the rights of defendants are protected. Anyone who has been arrested for suspected drunk driving should learn what the state's laws and penalties for these offenses are.
Five levels identified for DWI offenses
A driver arrested for a driving while impaired offense in North Carolina may face one of five different levels of charges. Level V is considered the least serious and Level I is considered the most serious.
For all five levels, drivers may be subject to fines and jail time. The amount of money to be paid and length of time to be spent in jail generally increases with each level. At Level V, a driver's sentence may include 24 hours in jail and a $200 fine. At Level I, a driver's sentence may include 24 months in jail and a $4,000 fine.
Judges may suspend sentences for drivers charged with Level III, IV and V offenses but minimum sentences for Level I and II offenses are not able to be suspended even by a judge.
Level I and Level II offenses indicate the presence of unique circumstances. These include having a minor in the vehicle while driving impaired, injuring another person or driving with a revoked license due to a previous DWI conviction.
When arrested even for a first-ever DWI, a driver in North Carolina who has a blood alcohol content over 0.14 percent may be required to use an ignition interlock device for 12 months. After any first-time DWI conviction, a driver is subject to a legal BAC limit of 0.04 percent versus the standard 0.08 percent for 36 months.
Understanding the habitual DWI charge
A person who is arrested for drunk driving after having two previous DWI convictions within a span of seven years may be charged with a habitual DWI. This is a felony offense in North Carolina and carries with it a minimum jail sentence of 12 months.
In addition, if the person is driving with a revoked license for one of the prior convictions, law enforcement officers have permission to take the vehicle immediately. If a third conviction ultimately results, the driver will forfeit the vehicle.
Getting help after a drunk driving arrest
Clearly the laws in North Carolina are tough and can have a serious effect on the life of a person arrested for drunk driving. It is important for anyone facing these charges to reach out to an attorney for help immediately. This gives drivers the chance to understand the laws and protect their rights.