How are DWI offenses classified in North Carolina?

North Carolina recognizes five different misdemeanor levels of offenses relating to drunk driving as well as a felony classification for habitual DWI.

Residents in North Carolina know that the state takes drunk driving seriously. This is not without good reason as certainly it is important to keep people safe. However, it is equally important that the rights of all people are protected. This includes treating those under arrest fairly both before, during and after their arrests.

The type of offense a person may be charged with related to drunk driving might be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on several factors. Understanding these as well as the purpose for undergoing field sobriety tests is important for all North Carolina residents.

Misdemeanor and felony DWI charges

According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, some drivers may face felony charges after being arrested for driving while intoxicated. This may happen if they have been convicted of three DWI offenses within a period of seven years. This is also called Habitual DWI.

Other offenses may be handled as misdemeanors and the severity of these can vary based on several factors. There are actually five different levels of DWI misdemeanors in North Carolina with Level I being the most severe.

In Levels I and II, people may have had at least one prior DWI conviction. They may also have been driving with minors in their vehicles at the time of their arrests, been involved in injury collisions while allegedly impaired or have been driving drunk while their licenses were revoked. The minimum jail sentences for these levels is not able to be avoided or overruled by a judge.

Field sobriety test function

Some people may believe that the field sobriety tests used during a drunk driving arrest are intended to prove that a driver is drunk. As explained by FieldSobrietyTests.org, that is not the case. In fact, these tests are completely unable to do this. Their purpose is instead to show that a person might be impaired, thus providing support for an officer's choice to place them under arrest and charge them with a driving while intoxicated offense.

It should be noted that even though the three tests used are sanctioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, they are not 100-percent accurate. Their individual accuracy rates run from 65 percent to 77 percent. Combined, they are said to be 82-percent accurate.

Getting help after a DWI arrest

People who have been charged with drunk driving crimes in North Carolina should always contact an attorney promptly. Doing this will allow them to have proper guidance as they navigate their defense options.

North Carolina vs. M.W.
Charge: Charge: Robbery with A Dangerous Weapon (4 Counts), First Degree Burglary, Conspiracy to Commit Robbery with A Dangerous Weapon
Facing: 12 - 17 years in prison
Result: Dismissed

An incarcerated defendant accused our client of participating in the robbery of a group of youth at a party. We were able to raise doubt as to the credibility of this individual. In the end, the prosecutor dismissed these charges, citing a lack of evidence.