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Aggravating and Mitigating Factors for DWI Sentencing in North Carolina

After a North Carolina DWI conviction, the judge will determine the defendant’s sentence. North Carolina criminal law recognizes mitigating, aggravating, and grossly aggravating factors that determine a defendant’s sentences. These factors can increase or decrease the severity of DWI defendant’s sentencing. If you are facing a DWI charge in Monroe, Mooresville or the greater Charlotte region, the lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC can help.

Our attorneys have extensive experience defending clients against DWI charges. We thoroughly investigate the circumstances behind the DWI charge in order to develop an effective criminal defense strategy. Contact our Charlotte criminal defense law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.

Grossly Aggravating Factors in North Carolina DWI Sentencing

The following factors are grossly aggravating factors that can increase the severity of the sentence of a person convicted of a DWI:

  • A prior DWI conviction that took place within seven years of the current DWI charge
  • A DWI conviction that occurred before sentencing but after the current DWI charge
  • A previous DWI conviction from a district court that was appealed, then withdrawn or remanded back to the district court for which the defendant has not yet been sentenced
  • The DWI involved driving with a minor child under the age of 18.
  • The DWI involved serious injury while drunk driving
  • The DWI occurred while the defendant drove on a license suspended for a prior DWI offense
  • The DWI involved driving with a person with the mental development of a child under the age of 18 years.
  • The DWI involved driving with person who because of a physical disability was unable to exit the vehicle themselves at the time of the offense.
Aggravating Factors in North Carolina DWI Sentencing
  • The defendant has one or more prior DUI convictions that happened outside of seven years of the current DWI charge.
  • The defendant had two or more prior traffic violation convictions that cost three points each or more
  • The defendant was speeding while attempting or fleeing arrest
  • The defendant drove past a stopped school bus when the DWI occurred
  • The driver drove at least 30 miles per hour above the posted speed limit
  • The driver was driving with a license that the state revoked for a non-DWI offense
  • The driver was driving recklessly or dangerously when the DWI took place
  • The driver was driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .15% or higher
  • The driver was driving with gross impairment of his or her faculties
Mitigating Factors in North Carolina DWI Sentencing

Unlike aggravating and grossly aggravating factors, mitigating factors help a defendant reduce his or her DWI sentence. The following are mitigating factors for DWI convictions in North Carolina:

  • The driver completed a substance abuse evaluation, complied with the evaluator’s recommendations, and abstained from alcohol for 60 days in accordance with the continuous alcohol monitoring (CAM) system
  • The driver only had a slight impairment of his or her faculties because of alcohol consumption
  • The driver had a BAC of .09 after drinking while driving
  • The driver was driving safely and following the law, aside from the DWI
  • The driver has a clean driving record
  • The driver has not received a conviction of an offense worth at least four points within five years of the date of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced.
  • The driver was driving under the influence of prescribed medication and was taking the correct dosage at the time of the accident
  • The driver went to a mental health facility for an assessment after the DWI charge, and if recommended by the facility voluntarily began the recommended treatment.
Sentencing for DWI Based on Aggravating and Mitigating Factors

When a defendant has three or more grossly aggravating factors, the defendant will receive the harshest sentence or what’s called an aggravated level 1 sentence. If a person is sentenced as an aggravated level 1, he or she will receive a minimal term of imprisonment of not less than 12 months and a maximum sentence of 36 months. Further, a defendant subject to an aggravated level 1 sentence can be fined up to $10,000.00.

The term of imprisonment may be suspended only if a condition of special probation is imposed requiring the defendant to serve an active term of imprisonment for at least 120 days. As a condition of probation the judge hall impose a requirement that the defendant abstain from alcohol for a minimum of 120 days, as verified by the a continuous alcohol monitoring system.

When a person has two grossly aggravating factors or had a minor child in his or her car during the DWI, they face a level one DWI sentence. Penalties for a level one DWI sentence include a jail sentence between 30 days and 24 months and a fine of up to $4,000.

What happens when the aggravating factors exceed mitigating factors? In this case, the defendant faces a level three DWI sentence with a maximum jail sentence of 6 months and a fine of no more than $1,000. On the contrary, when the defendant has more mitigating factors than aggravating factors, the defendant will face a jail sentence between 24 hours and 120 days and a fine of up to $200.

A judge may reduce the minimum term of imprisonment requirement to a term of not less than 10 days if a condition of special probation is imposed that requires a defendant to abstain from alcohol consumption and to be monitored by a continuous alcohol monitoring system for a period of not less than 120 days.

Our DWI Defense Lawyers can Help

If you are facing a DWI charge in North Carolina, our lawyers are here to help. Our lawyers thoroughly investigate our clients’ cases to develop an effective defense strategy. Contact our criminal defense law firm today to schedule your free case evaluation.