North Carolina DWI Laws and Penalties 2024 – What You Need to Know

North Carolina DWI Laws and Penalties 2024 – What You Need to Know

Jan 17, 2023 | Criminal Defense,Traffic Violations

Driving is a significant responsibility. Not only do you risk your own life when you take to the road, you risk the lives of other drivers, pedestrians, and passengers as well. Most people do their best to drive as safely as possible.

Despite your best efforts, accidents can happen. Most people think that driving while impaired (DWI) is a malicious choice. However, in most situations, it is an honest mistake or a situation in which the driver felt that they had no better option. If you are arrested on DWI charges, it is important to understand that you have choices for how to proceed. After all, an arrest is not a conviction.

With the help of an experienced North Carolina DWI attorney, you can defend your case in court. This gives you the very best chance of telling your side of the story and avoiding the serious charges and consequences that often accompany DWIs.

What Is a DWI?

Driving while impaired is an umbrella term for a situation in which a driver gets behind the wheel of a car while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A police officer will perform field sobriety tests and take a breathalyzer test if they suspect that the driver has been drinking or using drugs. If the driver is under the influence of alcohol, their blood alcohol content (BAC) must be .08% or higher to qualify for a DWI charge. If their BAC is lower than .08%, a driver is generally considered safe to operate a motor vehicle.

Drugs are different. Although there are fewer ways to test for drug use while in the field, a police officer may use context clues to determine if the driver is under the influence.

Consequences of DWI Charges in North Carolina

If you are arrested and ultimately charged with a DWI, the legal consequences will depend on the situation. North Carolina separates DWIs by level of severity, with Level 5 being the least serious and Level 1 being the most serious.

Level 5
Level 5 DWIs carry a jail sentence between 24 hours and 60 days. A judge may allow a suspension of the sentence after the driver has spent 24 hours in jail, done 24 hours of community service, or refrained from driving for 30 days. There is also a fine of up to $200.

Level 4
A Level 4 DWI will result in a jail sentence between 48 hours and 120 days. However, the judge may opt for a suspension under certain circumstances. There is also a fine of up to $500.

Level 3
Level 3 DWIs warrant a jail sentence between 72 hours and 6 months. However, if the driver completes certain requirements, the judge may opt to suspend the jail sentence. The fine for a Level 3 DWI is up to $1,000.

Level 2
The jail sentence for a Level 2 DWI is between 7 days and one year. A judge cannot suspend this sentence, and the offender will have to serve time. There is also a fine of up to $2,000.

Level 1
Level 1 DWIs are considered the most serious. These are punishable by between 30 days and two years in jail. A judge cannot waive or suspend this punishment. There is also a fine of up to $4,000.

Felony DWIs

DWIs are considered “wobbler” offenses. These are crimes that, depending on the circumstances, can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies. Your DWI will be considered a felony if either:

  • You have had three DWI convictions within the past 7 years.
  • Your DWI killed someone.

In most other cases, DWIs are charged as misdemeanors.


Q: What Happens When You Get Your First DWI in North Carolina?

A: First-time offenders who did not kill anyone while driving will likely be charged with a Level 5 DWI. This involves a small fee of up to $200 and potential jail time between 24 hours and 60 days. In many cases, a judge suspends this sentence for first-time offenders, but this is not guaranteed. The best way to ensure a lower sentence is to secure the help of a qualified North Carolina DWI attorney.

Q: How Can I Get a DWI Lowered in North Carolina?

A: You cannot get your DWI sentence reduced in North Carolina. This means that you cannot commit a Level 1 DWI and then negotiate your way down to a Level 3 DWI. However, if you are being charged with multiple offenses, there is the potential for a plea bargain. The best way to avoid or reduce punishments for DWIs is by hiring an attorney to represent you in court.

Q: How Do You Beat a DWI Case in North Carolina?

A: Beating a DWI case requires a precise argument, compelling evidence, and reasonable doubt in the jury. The best way to achieve all of these is by hiring a DUI lawyer to represent you. There are several arguments that can be effective against DWI accusations. Your attorney can examine your case and determine which argument best fits your circumstances.

Q: What Happens When You Get a DWI in North Carolina?

A: The aftermath of your DWI will depend upon its severity and the circumstances. In most cases, DWI offenders must pay a fine. Some people must also serve time in jail. However, the judge may suspend this sentence or replace it with alternative sentencing for more minor offenses. You will also have the criminal offense on your record. Employers, landlords, and others will be able to learn of your offense.

Contact Helton, Cody & Associates, PLLC

For many years, our DWI lawyers have been helping individuals who have been arrested on DWI charges. We understand the confusion and panic that often accompany these cases, and we work diligently to give our clients the second chance that they deserve. We are here to support you and your family during your DWI case. Our firm can give you the best possible chance of avoiding serious consequences.

For more information about how we can help during your DWI claim, contact Helton, Cody & Associates, PLLC.