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North Carolina's DWI laws notoriously tough

Did you know that North Carolina has some of the toughest drunk driving laws in the nation? That's right, even before a 1999 legal crackdown on DWI, this state has had a reputation for being tough on crime when it comes to intoxicated drivers. With a comprehensive system that includes the use of ignition interlocks and strict penalties -- including jail time -- it is important that drivers learn about the details of the drunk driving allegations they are facing in North Carolina.

In this state, there are five levels of offenses for drunk driving violations. The lowest, Level V (or Level 5), comes along with a $200 fine and a minimum 24-hour jail sentence. Judges can suspend the sentence, but the convicted driver may have to complete several hours of community service and refrain from driving for the next month.

Punishment, of course, increases with the severity of the offense. For Level I and II offenders, fines can reach $4,000, and the minimum jail sentence rises to 30 days. The minimum sentence for a Level I offender cannot be suspended. For the most part, Level I and II offenders are those who have previous drunk driving convictions. Other factors that could push an offense into the Level I or Level II category: driving intoxicated with children in the vehicle or harming someone else in a crash. For all North Carolina DWI offenses, the legal blood alcohol content limit for private drivers is 0.08 percent; that drops to 0.04 percent for commercial motorists.

The most severe type of DWI charge is the felony drunk driving charge, which is triggered when offenders have three previous convictions within a seven-year span. A minimum of a year behind bars is mandated, and the minimum sentence cannot be suspended. As you can see, North Carolina's drunk driving laws are rather strict. Tens of thousands of drivers are arrested every year under these statutes. If you are among these drivers, know that you still have legal rights and are not considered guilty simply because you were arrested for drunk driving.

Source: North Carolina Department of Public Safety, "Information Concerning Alcohol and Driving While Impaired" Jul. 29, 2014

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