The level of DWI charges affects the penalty

If you’ve ever been pulled over in a North Carolina traffic stop, you no doubt understand how disconcerting such situations can be, especially if you wind up getting a ticket, or worse. If a police officer asks you to step out of your vehicle, you can logically assume that he or she suspects you of DWI. If you’re taken into custody, you might face misdemeanor charges.  

There are five levels of DWI misdemeanor offenses in this state. Level I is considered a more serious offense than Level V. If a criminal court judge convicts you of DWI, the level of misdemeanor will have an impact on the sentencing the court orders you to serve. The type of defense strategy you employ when facing DWI charges may also be influenced by the level of misdemeanor with which you’ve been charged. 

Do not expect a suspended minimum sentence at Level I or Level II 

A North Carolina criminal court judge cannot suspend a minimum sentence if you’re convicted of a Level I DWI. This is the most serious level of DWI misdemeanor in this state, and it’s punishable by maximum fines of $4,000 and up to two years in jail. A judge will also not suspend a minimum sentence for a Level II DWI misdemeanor but may do so for Levels III, IV or V.  

A suspended sentence may be contingent upon certain issues 

If the court hands down a conviction against you for a Level V DWI in North Carolina, the judge may decide to suspend your sentence. However, a suspended sentence is usually contingent upon your agreement to spend a full day and night in jail. You might also have to complete a certain number of hours of community service and agree to not drive a motor vehicle for a certain amount of time. 

Level of impairment and past criminal record determine severity of penalties  

In this state, you are prohibited from operating a motor vehicle if your blood alcohol content (BAC) level is .08 or higher; the legal limit is .04 if you’re driving a commercial vehicle. Penalty under conviction is typically more severe for those whose BAC far exceeds the legal limit. If the court considers you a habitual offender (three DWI convictions within seven years) the charges against you may be upgraded to a felony offense.   

Explore your defense options following a DWI arrest 

Being arrested for suspected DWI in North Carolina doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve been illegally operating a motor vehicle. Various issues, for instance, might cause a false positive on a preliminary breath test. You might also test positive on a Breathalyzer but with a BAC that is below the legal limit.  

Because the unique details of your specific case may affect your ability to mitigate your circumstances, it’s always best to seek guidance from someone who is well-versed in DWI laws before your case is adjudicated. Doing so can help you achieve the most positive outcome possible. 

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