What are the five levels of DWI in North Carolina?

There are five DWI levels in North Carolina, and each features different consequences that differ in terms of their severity.

In North Carolina, and in all other states except Utah, it is illegal for drivers to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration level at or above 0.08, states the Governors Highway Safety Association. Drivers who are arrested in North Carolina for DWI face varying degrees of consequences depending on if the charge is considered a Level I, II, III, IV, V, or Aggravated Level I DWI. What Level a DWI is considered, in turn, depends on whether certain statutorily proscribed "aggravating," "grossly aggravating," or "mitigating" factors apply to the particular case.

Level V

According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the DWI sentencing statute, N.C.G.S. § 20-179, those charged with a Level V DWI face a fine of up to $200 and a jail sentence ranging from 24 hours to 60 days. This 24 hour minimum jail term can be suspended at the discretion of the sentencing judge if the driver performs 24 hours of community service.

Level IV

Drivers charged with a Level IV DWI face a jail sentence ranging from 48 hours to 120 days and a fine of up to $500. This sentence can also be suspended in the court's discretion if the driver completes 48 hours of community service.

Level III

Those charged with a Level III DWI face 72 hours to six months of jail time and the requirement to pay a fine of up to $1,000. Like Level V and IV convictions, a Level III DWI jail sentence can be suspended, but only if the driver completes 72 hours of community service.

Level II

Those charged with a Level II DWI face a minimum jail sentence of seven days and a maximum sentence of a year, in addition to the requirement to pay a fine up to $2,000. With a Level II DWI, the sentencing court must impose either 7 days in jail or order that the driver abstain from alcohol for 90 consecutive days. If the court orders that the driver abstain from alcohol for 90 days in lieu of 7 days in jail, the driver will be required to be monitored by a "continuous alcohol monitoring system," often called "CAM." In some cases-where the driver has a recent prior DWI conviction or where the driver's license was suspended at the time of the new DWI-the court is also required to impose 240 hours of community service if no active jail time is ordered.

Level I

Driver's convicted of a Level I DWI face a fine of up to $4,000 and the requirement to spend up to two years in jail. In the case of Level I DWI's, the driver must serve a minimum of 30 days in jail. This mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days in jail may be reduced to 10 days in jail, but only if the driver abstains from alcohol and submits to CAM monitoring for a period of at least 120 days.

Aggravated Level I

The most serious form of DWI in North Carolina is an Aggravated Level I DWI. For Aggravated Level I DWI sentences, the driver faces a fine of up to $10,000 and a jail term of up to 3 years. The minimum jail sentence for an Aggravated Level I DWI is 12 months, which may be reduced to 120 days in jail only if the driver submits to CAM for at least 120 days.

Contact an attorney

Those facing a DWI conviction in North Carolina may have concerns about how they will cope financially and legally with the consequences. Drivers in this situation should contact an attorney who can help them understand their legal rights as well as the legal steps they should take next.

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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.