Can I Go to Prison for a DWI Conviction in North Carolina?

It is illegal for a person to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol in North Carolina. When a driver's blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08% or higher, a law enforcement officer can charge them with a DWI.

Officers do not need proof that a driver's BAC is too high to arrest them. Displaying behaviors that suggest a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be enough to charge a person with a DWI. If you have been charged with a DWI, you may be concerned that you are facing prison time.

The Different Types of DWI Charges in New York

In some cases, drivers convicted of a DWI will serve jail time. The length of the jail sentence depends on the case's specific circumstances. Under North Carolina law, the level of a DWI charge will be determined by multiple factors, including the following:

  • The driver’s manner of driving leading to the DWI stop
  • The driver’s behavior during the DWI stop
  • The driver’s appearance during the DWI stop
  • Whether the driver was taking any active prescriptions
  • The driver's criminal history
  • Whether the driver has prior DWI convictions

The DWI level in your case will determine how much jail time you could face if you are convicted.

Penalties for a Level Five DWI in North Carolina

Level five is the lowest level of DWI under North Carolina law. A level five DWI has a penalty of one to 60 days in jail. A skilled criminal defense attorney can often negotiate jail time down. If you have multiple mitigating factors in your case, your attorney may be able to negotiate no jail time. A level five DWI also carries a fine of up to $200 and a driver's license suspension for one year.

Penalties for a Level Four DWI in North Carolina

A level four DWI carries more severe penalties than a level five DWI. If you are convicted of a level four DWI, you face a maximum fine of $500, between two and 120 days in jail, and a driver's license suspension.

Penalties for a Level Three DWI in North Carolina

If you are convicted of a level three DWI, you could lose your driver's license for up to one year. The maximum fine will increase to $1,000. You could also look at between 72 hours and six months in jail. As with other levels of DWI charges, your jail sentence may be negotiable. If you have multiple mitigating factors in your favor and few or no aggravating factors, your attorney may be able to negotiate a lighter sentence.

Penalties for a Level Two DWI in North Carolina

If you have been charged with a level two DWI in North Carolina, your maximum possible jail time increases to one year if you are convicted. Additionally, the maximum possible fine will increase to $2,000.

Penalties for a Level One DWI in North Carolina

Level one DWI charges carry the most severe penalties. A level one DWI carries a maximum jail sentence of two years. In addition to losing your license, you could face a maximum possible fine of up to $4,000. The highest level of DWI is called an aggravated level one DWI. An aggravated level 1 DWI could cost you $10,000 in fines. If you are convicted, you will face a maximum of three years in prison. You can also face the same driver's license restrictions as the other levels.

Additionally, you may be required to abstain from alcohol for a specific period after release. Factors that increase the likelihood of your DWI being aggravated include previous DWI convictions, dangerous or reckless driving, and driving with a suspended or revoked driver’s license.

Charged With a DWI in North Carolina? We Can Help

Regardless of which level of DWI charge you face, the potential penalties can negatively impact your life if you are convicted. If you are convicted of a level five DWI, you will still have a criminal conviction, and your conviction will appear in any background investigation. Being convicted of a DWI can make it difficult to obtain employment and housing and can hurt your personal relationships. The sooner you discuss your case with an attorney, the better. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to schedule a free case evaluation.