Not every DWI is punished the same way upon a conviction or guilty plea in North Carolina. If you are charged with a DWI, a number of factors will determine the level of punishment you could face if you are convicted or plead guilty. You should consult a qualified North Carolina lawyer to keep from being taken by surprise, and to consider your options to fight the charge or fight on sentencing.

To determine the range of punishment you could face for DWI in North Carolina, the law refers to “mitigating factors”, “aggravating factors”, and “grossly aggravating factors” that are weighed against one another. What the law means by “mitigating factors”, “aggravating factors”, and “grossly aggravating factors” is the subject of another legal guide on our website. This legal guide addresses the levels of punishment only. Aggravated Level One DWI is the worst, and Level Five DWI is the best in terms of eligibility for the least punishment.

Aggravated Level One DUI/DWI

A person with three or more grossly aggravating factors who is convicted or pleads guilty to DWI in North Carolina will face a fine up to $10,000.00 and a prison sentence of 12 to 36 months with no eligibility for parole. Probation may be allowed in the discretion of the judge, but it requires serving at least 120 days in prison, taking a substance abuse assessment and the education and treatment required, and abstaining from alcohol for at least an additional 120 days with an ankle monitor for verification.

Level One DUI/DWI

A person who is convicted or pleads guilty to DWI in North Carolina and was accompanied by a minor child under 18 years old at the time of the offense or who has two other grossly aggravating factors will face a fine up to $4,000.00 and a prison sentence between 30 days and 24 months. The prison sentence may be suspended and probation allowed in the discretion of the judge, but it requires serving at least 10 days in prison, taking a substance abuse assessment and the education and treatment required, and abstaining from alcohol for at least an additional 120 days with an ankle monitor for verification. If the person charged abstains from alcohol and wears an ankle monitor for verification before pleading guilty or being convicted, up to 60 days from that period can be counted toward the time required for probation.

Level Two DUI/DWI

A person who is convicted or pleads guilty to DWI in North Carolina and was not accompanied by a minor child under 18 years old at the time of the offense, but who has one grossly aggravating factor, will face a fine up to $2,000.00 and a prison sentence between 7 days and 12 months. The prison sentence may be suspended and probation allowed in the discretion of the judge, but it requires serving at least 7 days in prison, taking a substance abuse assessment and the education and treatment required, and abstaining from alcohol for at least an additional 90 days with an ankle monitor for verification. If the person charged abstains from alcohol and wears an ankle monitor for verification before pleading guilty or being convicted, up to 60 days from that period can be counted toward the time required for probation. However, if the grossly aggravating factor is either that the person’s license was revoked at the time of the offense from a prior DWI, or if the person had another conviction for DWI in the last five years, the judge cannot allow probation unless the person is also sentenced to 240 hours of community service. The judge may also impose other conditions on probation.

Level Three DUI/DWI

A person who is convicted or pleads guilty to DWI in North Carolina and has no grossly aggravating factors, but has aggravating factors that substantially outweigh any mitigating factors, will face a fine up to $1,000.00 and a prison sentence between 3 days and 6 months. The prison sentence may be suspended and probation allowed in the discretion of the judge, but it requires serving 3 days in prison, 72 hours community service, or any combination of those that the judge has discretion to order. It will further require taking a substance abuse assessment and the education and treatment required, as well as other conditions that the judge may impose.

Level Four DUI/DWI

A person who is convicted or pleads guilty to DWI in North Carolina and has no grossly aggravating factors, but has aggravating factors that are balanced with any mitigating factors (or who has no mitigating factors but no aggravating factors either), will face a fine up to $500.00 and a prison sentence between 2 days and 120 days. The prison sentence may be suspended and probation allowed in the discretion of the judge, but it requires serving 2 days in prison, 48 hours community service, or any combination of those that the judge has discretion to order. It will further require taking a substance abuse assessment and the education and treatment required, as well as other conditions that the judge may impose.

Level Five DUI/DWI

A person who is convicted or pleads guilty to DWI in North Carolina and has no grossly aggravating factors, and has mitigating factors that substantially outweigh any aggravating factors, will face a fine up to $200.00 and a prison sentence between 1 day and 60 days. The prison sentence may be suspended and probation allowed in the discretion of the judge, but it requires serving 1 day in prison, 24 hours community service, or any combination of those that the judge has discretion to order. It will further require taking a substance abuse assessment and the education and treatment required, as well as other conditions that the judge may impose.

The levels of punishment for DWI in North Carolina vary enormously and the standards can be confusing. If you are facing a DWI charge in North Carolina, the worst thing you can do is ignore the potential punishment or make assumptions about it that lead you to mishandle your case. You should consult a qualified North Carolina lawyer right away when you are charged, so you can consider all of your options to fight what you might be facing.

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