The crime of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious offense in North Carolina. Drivers who are found guilty of this crime can face punishments ranging from civil fines, loss of their drivers’ licenses and jail time.
Motorists who plan on taking to the roadways in North Carolina need to know at what limits that the state sets for blood alcohol content or BAC. They also need to be aware of what kinds of penalties that they can receive for being found guilty of DUI in North Carolina.
DUI in North Carolina
North Carolina actually defines driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol as Driving While Intoxicated or DWI. It allows for different BAC levels for different category of drivers.
The standard BAC limit for most drivers in the state is 0.08 percent. At or above this BAC, drivers who are at 21 years of age and older and operating a motor vehicle like a passenger car, motorcycle, truck or moped can be arrested for DWI.
However, the BAC limit is lower for drivers of commercial vehicles. Drivers who have commercial drivers’ licenses or CDLs in North Carolina can be arrested for DWI if their BAC is at or above 0.04 percent.
Under the state’s zero tolerance law, drivers under the age of 21 cannot have any trace of alcohol or drugs in their systems. While most states allow for minors to have BACs of 0.02 percent, North Carolina forbids any detectable BAC in drivers under 21. If they have any BAC at all, minors can be arrested for DWI in North Carolina.
DWI Penalties in North Carolina
North Carolina punishes DWIs according to at what level the offense is committed. There are five levels of DWI ranging from I to V. Level I is the most serious of DWI offenses while level V is the least serious.
A level I and II DWIs are charges reserved for:
- Repeat DWI offenders
- Offenders with revoked licenses
- Impaired drivers
- Impaired motorists driving with young children in the vehicle
- Impaired drivers who caused bodily harm or injury to another person
In addition to receiving penalties for their DWI offense, level 1 and II offenders also must complete a substance abuse assessment and finish a state-approved treatment program to get their licenses back after the revocation period.
People found guilty of a level I DWI also receive consequences like a fine of up to $4000 and a minimum of 30 days to a maximum of one year in jail. The judge assigned to their case cannot suspend their minimum jail sentence.
The fine for a level II DWI in North Carolina tops out at $2000 while the jail term extends from seven days to one year. As with a level I offense, the judge cannot suspend the minimum jail term.
A level III DWI conviction in the state garners a fine of up to $1000 and a minimum jail term of 72 hours. The maximum amount of time in jail is up to six months. The judge has the option of suspending the jail sentence in favor of:
- 72 hours in jail
- 72 hours of community service
- Not driving a vehicle for at least 30 days
A level IV conviction results in a jail term of 48 hours to 120 days. The fine goes up to $500. However, the jail term can be suspended by the judge if the defendant agrees to serve 48 hours in jail and then another 48 hours of community service while not driving a vehicle for 60 days.
The least serious DWI conviction is a level V. At level V, the DWI offender can expect to receive a fine of $200. The minimum amount of time in jail is 24 hours while the maximum is 60 days. The sentence can be suspended in favor of 24 hours in jail, 24 hours of community service and not operating a vehicle for 30 days.
Aggravated and Felony DWI in North Carolina
In North Carolina, it is possible to be charged with a felony DWI. The circumstances that lead to an aggravated charge include:
- Having a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher
- Driving with a suspended license
- Driving recklessly or dangerously
- Having a passenger under the age of 18 in the car
- Having a prior DWI or criminal record
You can be charged with a felony DWI in North Carolina if you have at least three prior DWIs on your driving record within the last seven years or you cause serious injury or death while driving while intoxicated. An aggravated or felony DWI can be punished with a prison term of at least one year.
Driving while intoxicated in North Carolina is a crime that can lead to significant punishments. People found guilty of one of the five levels of DWI can pay fines, lose their licenses and also serve time in jail. Under certain circumstances, the DWI can also be charged as a felony or aggravated offense.