DWI Sentencing Levels in North Carolina

by | Aug 6, 2020 | Blog Posts, DWI, NC Criminal Defense | 0 comments

DWI sentencing levels in North Carolina – In North Carolina, DWI sentencing is governed by N.C.G.S. 20-179 and follows its own special sentencing guidelines. Although a DWI is a misdemeanor charge, it does not follow the misdemeanor sentencing guidelines. Instead, DWIs are sentenced according to 6 different levels, which range from Aggravated Level One (the most serious) to Level Five (the least serious). The appropriate level is determined by assessing the statutorily mitigating factors, aggravating factors, and grossly aggravating factors.

We have written previous blogs on DWI sentencing, in general. This blog will break down the six levels of sentencing and describe the possible penalties for each level, focusing primarily on possible jail time and fines. Like all of our blogs, this blog is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the advice and counsel of a DWI attorney.

Level Five Punishment

A Level Five punishment is the least severe and is imposed in cases in which the mitigating factors substantially outweigh the aggravating factors. It is also imposed for convictions of aiding and abetting DWI.

A Level Five punishment must include a term of imprisonment between 24 hours to 60 days (may be suspended) and may include a fine of up to $200 (plus court costs).

A judge may suspend the active jail sentence and place defendant on probation for a period of time (typically 12 months). Probation may be supervised or unsupervised. If placed on probation, the defendant must abide by all terms and conditions of probation, including, but not limited to, completing a minimum of 24 hours of community service and completing a substance abuse assessment and treatment.

Level Four Punishment

A Level Four punishment is imposed in cases in which there are either no aggravating or mitigating factors, or the aggravating and mitigating factors are substantially counterbalanced.

A Level Four punishment must include a term of imprisonment between 48 hours and 120 days (may be suspended) and may include a fine of up to $600 (plus court costs).

If the judge suspends the active jail sentence and places the defendant on probation (supervised or unsupervised), the defendant must abide by all terms of probation, including, but not limited to, completing a minimum of 48 hours of community service and completing a substance abuse assessment and treatment.

Level Three Punishment

A Level Three punishment is imposed in cases in which the aggravating factors substantially outweigh the mitigating factors.

A level Three punishment must include a term of imprisonment between 72 hours and six (6) months. A judge may suspend this sentence and place the defendant on supervised or unsupervised probation. The punishment may also include a fine of up to $1,000 (plus court costs).

If the judge suspends the active jail sentence, the defendant must abide by all terms of probation, including, but not limited to, completing a minimum of 72 hours of community service and completing a substance abuse assessment and treatment.

Level Two Punishment

A Level Two punishment is imposed in cases in which one (1) grossly aggravating factor is present, so long as that grossly aggravating factor does not involve the presence of certain vulnerable passengers in the vehicle at the time of the offense.

A Level Two punishment includes a term of imprisonment between 7 days to 1 year and a fine of up to $2,000 (plus court costs). This sentence may be suspended; however, the defendant must serve a minimum of 7 days in jail or must abstain from alcohol use for 90 days (verified by a continuous alcohol monitoring device or “CAM”).

Level One Punishment

A Level One punishment is imposed in cases in which two (2) grossly aggravating factors are present OR in cases in which one of the following classes of individuals was a passenger in the vehicle at the time of the impaired driving offense: a) a child under age 18, or b) a person with the mental development of a child under 18, or c) a person with a physical disability that prevents unaided exit from the vehicle.

A Level One punishment must include a term of imprisonment between 30 days to two years and a fine of up to $4,000 (plus court costs). The jail sentence may be suspended; however, the defendant must serve at least 30 days of this sentence OR must serve at least 10 days of this sentence and abstain from consuming alcohol for at least 120 days (verified by “CAM”).

Aggravated Level One Punishment

Aggravated Level One punishment is imposed in cases in which three (3) or more grossly aggravating factors are present.

Aggravated Level One punishment includes a term of imprisonment between 12 months to 36 months and a fine of up to $10,000 (plus court costs). The jail sentence may be suspended; however, the defendant must serve at least 120 days in jail and 120 days of abstention from alcohol consumption (verified by “CAM”).

DWI is a complicated area of law. If you or a loved one has been charged with DUI and is in need of a DUI lawyer, contact us to discuss your options.

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