Even if it is your first drunk driving charge, you should at the very least talk to a lawyer about your options; many DWI attorneys offer a free initial consultation. In addition to advising you of the potential DWI penalties that you may face, an experienced impaired driving lawyer can work on getting the case against you dismissed, the charges against you reduced, negotiate a reasonable plea or fight for an acquittal at trial, depending on the circumstances of your case.
In short, a lawyer can help ensure that you aren’t punished as harshly as the law allows – up to two years in prison, even for a first offense – for one mistake.
If you are convicted of drunk driving, you will be assigned a punishment level and will be sentenced accordingly. Level five is the lowest level of punishment and comes with a jail sentence of one day to two months, along with a $200 fine. Level one is the highest level of punishment and comes with a jail sentence of one month to two years and a fine up to $4,000.
In North Carolina, the level of punishment you will receive after a drunk driving conviction is determined by any mitigating, aggravating or grossly aggravating factors. Mitigating factors could include the absence of any prior criminal history and an aggravating factor could include a high BAC of .15 or greater. Mitigating factors are weighed against aggravating factors to determine what sentencing level is appropriate.
Grossly aggravating factors trump mitigating factors and you can expect to be sentenced at a level two or above if you, for example, were arrested for DWI with a minor in your car.
Source: Super Lawyers, “Do I Need A Lawyer For My First DUI In North Carolina?”