I’m one of the lucky ones when it comes to successfully defending against a DWI charge in North Carolina. For others their cases are much more complex, and even with a great DWI defense attorney there are still many things to consider when you are going to court to prove that you were not impaired when you were pulled over. While I hope that everyone is innocent of the charges they are burdened with by North Carolina, the hard reality is that the punishment for a guilty verdict carries difficult outcomes.

Let’s assume that you go to court and the verdict does not fall your way. Being found guilty of driving while impaired in North Carolina carries a wide range of penalties and punishments, and we’ll take a look at them so you fully understand what sort of consequences you might face if a guilty verdict results from your DWI charge.

Scroll Down

In North Carolina the laws of sentencing someone found guilty of a DWI are found in General Statute §20-179, which establishes five tiers or levels of sentencing. These levels are determined by “aggravating factors”, “grossly aggravating factors”, and “mitigating factors.”

All DWI convictions with the exception of a conviction that involves someone who has gotten habitual DWI convictions fall into one these five levels of sentencing. Level One and Level Two only apply if you have a prior DWI conviction within the last seven years or have a series of grossly aggravating or aggravating factors. Level Three, Level Four, and Level Five are applied to first-time offenders, and the sentence first-time offenders receive will depend on an investigation and testimony based on the aggravating and mitigating factors.

Aggravating factors and grossly aggravating factors will cause the court to treat a defendant more harshly in sentencing. In North Carolina there are four grossly aggravating factors a judge must consider when sentencing someone found guilty of a DWI:

1. A prior DWI conviction within seven years of the date of the offense for which a defendant is being sentenced or a DWI conviction after the date of the offense for which a defendant is sentenced. Each prior conviction is considered a separate grossly aggravating factor.

2. Driving while your license was revoked as a result of DWI.

3. Serious injury to another person as a result of your DWI.

4. DWI with a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle.

However, there are also mitigating factors that a judge might consider when granting leniency and a lighter sentence. North Carolina has six mitigating factors, including one “catch all” factor:

1. Slight impairment and a blood alcohol level of .09 or less.

2. Slight impairment on the basis of field sobriety tests in the absence of any chemical analysis of your blood. (However, if you refused tests this factor will not be considered.)

3. Driving that was safe and lawful at the time of your arrest except for being impaired.

4. A safe driving record, with no conviction for any traffic offense that incurs four points on your record or which could result in having your license revoked.

5. Impairment that was caused chiefly by a legally prescribed medication of which you took the prescribed dosage.

6. Voluntary participation before sentencing in an alcohol assessment program and, if recommended, voluntary participation in a treatment program.

7. Any other factor that mitigates the seriousness of the offense. (This again is a critical area that varies from judge to judge.)
If you are convicted of a DWI for the first time, expect to pay fines between $100 to $250, perform community service, and possibly spend 24 hours to 120 days in jail, though often a judge will suspend a jail term if you perform at least 24-48 hours of community service, serve a 24-48 hour period in jail as a condition of special probation, or have your driver’s license revoked for a month. A judge may decide to sentence a defendant convicted with a DWI with a mixture of these punishments depending on the severity of the charge.

Because of how severe the sentence for a DWI can be in North Carolina it is important to make sure that you are represented by a qualified DWI defense attorney who will help you navigate through these types of cases that are often difficult and confusing. They often will make the difference between having your record cleared later on and suffering the effects of your conviction for years afterward.

I can speak from experience that reaching out to my attorney at Dummit Fradin was the best decision I ever made when it came to getting the assistance I needed in handling my DWI. If you’re in need of representation with your DWI charge in Charlotte, High Point, Winston-Salem, or Greensboro, give them a call. They helped my story have a happy ending and I know they will help you finds yours too.

Winston Salem 
1133 West First Street
(336) 777-8081

321 West Eleventh Street
(704) 319-7200

412 West Market Street
(336) 482-3848