Last Updated on May 21, 2021 by Morris Green
Table of contents
There are several considerations that come into play once someone is convicted of a DWI (Driving While Impaired).
Driving while impaired can be proven in one of two ways:
- By proving the driver’s physical or mental fitness are appreciably impaired by alcohol, drugs or a combination of both; or
- By proving the driver’s blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent or more
You might know that getting a DWI becomes more and more expensive depending on the severity of your DWI conviction. The cost of a DWI is not just measured in dollars, but in time–either in jail, community service, or mandatory classes–and in your reputation or criminal record. Let’s look at some of these costs–financial or personal–with 10 things you may and may not know about NC’s DWI laws.
Levels of North Carolina DWI
You may know: North Carolina will assess penalties, fines, education requirements and jail time based on how severe your North Carolina DWI was.
Here is a breakdown of the NC DWI levels and the punishment you might incur for each one:
|Level||Min. jail time||Max. jail time||Fine|
|24 hours||60 days||Up to $200|
|Level IV*||48 hours||120 days||Up to $500|
|Level III*||72 hours||6 months||Up to $1,000|
|Level II||7 days||1 year||Up to $2,000|
(Almost the most serious…)
|30 days||2 years||Up to $4,000|
* A judge can suspend the sentence for levels 5, 4, and 3–replacing them with a period of driving prohibition, jail time, or hours spent in community service.
For more information on levels 1-5 of the NC DWI, visit the NC Department of Public Safety.
You may not know: In addition to the 5 Levels of DWI, there is also a level even more severe than Level 1 called Aggravated Level 1 (Level 1A):
|Level||Min. jail time||Max. jail time||Fine|
|12 months||36 months||Up to $10,000|
For more information on Aggravated Level 1 DWI, visit the UNC School of Government’s Criminal Law Blog.
Blood alcohol content limits
You may know: North Carolina’s legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08. This means that anyone with a BAC of .08 or greater can be arrested for driving while impaired (DWI).
You may not know: The BAC level for a repeat offense is lowered to .04. This means anyone who is convicted of a DWI can not drive with a BAC of .04 or higher.
You may know: It is illegal for a person under the age of 21 to drink alcohol.
You may not know: Because any amount of alcohol is illegal for those under the age of 21, those arrested for a DWI will be convicted whether or not their BAC is .08.
North Carolina’s underage drinking laws are stricter than many other states, forbidding alcohol use for those under 21 even if they have their parents’ permission to drink. Learn more about the history and importance of NC underage drinking laws here.
Commercial driver penalties
You may know: Commercial drivers are subject to NC DWI Laws and because of their CDL license, most times have stricter penalties.
You may not know: Not only can NC assess penalties for Commercial drivers, but the interstate drivers are subject to Federal charges as well.
That’s not the only way commercial drivers have stricter penalties than personal drivers…
You may know: If you drive a personal vehicle, it is illegal for you to have an open container of alcohol while you are driving.
You may not know: This law is more strict if you drive a commercial vehicle. Even if you have not been drinking, it is illegal to have an open or closed container of alcohol in the passenger area of your car.
Revoking your license
You may know: A person convicted of a first offense DWI can have their license revoked for 1 year. However, under certain circumstances, you may be able to apply for limited driving privileges after 10 days.
You may not know: If someone gets another DWI within 3 years of their first DWI conviction, their license can be revoked for 4 years. You cannot apply for limited driving privileges in these cases.
Seizing your vehicle
You may know: If you are arrested for a DWI, the state might seize your vehicle.
You may not know: If you are a repeat offender arrested for a DWI, the state can not only seize your vehicle, but also sell your vehicle. The vehicle is given to a local school board who can either sell it and keep the proceeds, or keep it for school board use.
In addition, these vehicle seizures happen when you are arrested for a DWI, not after the DWI has gone to trial.
Reinstating your license
You may know: After a DWI conviction, a driver can have his/her driving privileges and license reinstated.
You may not know: The process for drivers license reinstatement requires a DWI Assessment and classes from an approved NC DWI service provider. Absolute Advocacy is a licensed provider for both of these services.
You may know: NC drivers are required to have insurance and liability coverage for motor vehicles.
You may not know: In NC, insurance companies see DWI offenders as high risk and charge higher rates for drivers with DWI history. You may also need to seek out a different insurance company that is willing to cover higher-risk drivers.
Learn more about increased insurance rates in our article Life After Your DWI: What’s Next?
Interlock ignition devices
You may know: NC supports the use of ignition interlock devices (IIDs) for high level DWI’s. The device requires the driver to blow into a breathalyzer before operating their vehicle.
You may not know: The IID is a mandatory requirement for anyone with a BAC of .15 or higher OR for anyone who has had a subsequent DWI conviction within 7 years.