Misdemeanor and DWI Sentencing

In North Carolina, a defendant convicted of a misdemeanor faces up to 150 days in jail. Driving While Impaired (DWI) has its own special sentencing rules, which are discussed below.

Misdemeanors are classified into four levels: Class A1, Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3. Class 3 misdemeanors are the lowest classification and Class A1 misdemeanors are the highest.

An additional factor in sentencing is one’s criminal history. North Carolina has 3 criminal history levels for misdemeanors: Level I, Level II, and Level III. Level I criminal history means that a defendant has never been convicted of any criminal offense. Level II means a defendant has been convicted of a crime at least once but less than five times. Level III means a defendant has been convicted of a crime on at least five separate occasions. An important note in the criminal history category is that a defendant only receives one point for all cases resolved on the same day (if resolved in District Court) or in the same week (if resolved in Superior Court). This is why it is vital that defendants facing multiple charges set on multiple court dates should seek the assistance of counsel. Maintaining the lowest possible criminal history status is imperative to make sure a defendant receives a lesser sentence if he or she is ever convicted of another crime.

Depending on the class of misdemeanor and criminal history, a defendant has three possible sentences: (1) community punishment; (2) intermediate punishment; and (3) active punishment. A sentence to community punishment may include unsupervised probation, house arrest, community service, substance abuse assessment, monitoring or treatment. An intermediate punishment may include supervised probation, drug treatment court, or any terms of special probation like periodic periods of imprisonment or time in a treatment facility. It may also include some of the same punishment authorized with a community punishment sentence. Active punishment is just that, a sentence to a specific period of imprisonment.

In addition to the punishments described above, defendants convicted of misdemeanors also face the possibility of fines up to $1,000.00

Here is a helpful chart to determine what sentence is possible for each class of misdemeanor and criminal history.

No Prior ConvictionsOne to Four Prior ConvictionsFive or More Prior Convictions
A1 (fine discretionary)1-60 days C/I/A1-75 days C/I/A1-150 days C/I/A
1 (fine discretionary)1-45 days C1-45 days C/I/A1-120 days C/I/A
2 ($1,000 max fine)1-30 days C1-45 days C/I/A1-60 days C/I/A
3 ($200 max fine)1-10 days C1-15 days C/I1-20 days C/I/A
DWI Sentencing

While DWI is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor, sentencing for DWI convictions is a complicated process. The first major difference between DWI convictions and other misdemeanor convictions is that if you are convicted of a DWI, you can be sentenced to up to three years in jail and assessed up to a $10,000.00 fine, instead of the maximum 150 day jail sentence and $1,000.00 fine for all other misdemeanors. Also unlike other misdemeanors, only certain prior convictions are considered, like prior DWI convictions and certain moving violations. The standard criminal history calculation described above does not count.

The process for determining a DWI sentence is to first figure out what level DWI applies to a particular case. DWIs have six levels, with Level 5 being the lowest level and Aggravated Level 1 being the highest. In order to determine what level DWI a defendant faces, one must perform a balancing test between Grossly Aggravating Factors, Aggravating Factors, and Mitigating Factors. A Level 5 DWI is one in which the mitigating factors substantially outweigh the aggravating factors. A Level 4 DWI is on in which the mitigating factors and aggravating factors are equal. A Level 3 DWI is on in which the aggravating factors substantially outweigh the mitigating factors. A Level 2 DWI is on in which one grossly aggravating factor present. A Level 1 DWI is one in which two grossly aggravating factors are present. An Aggravated Level 1 DWI is one in which three or more grossly aggravating factors are present.

Misdemeanor and DWI charges are serious matters. Let our experienced attorneys negotiate on your behalf for the best possible outcome, contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today.