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DWI Jail Time in North Carolina

Perhaps one of the most serious concerns of individuals facing a DWI charge is the question of having to go to jail. Although North Carolina’s DWI laws are among the toughest in the nation, most DWIs do not result in a jail sentence. However, there are circumstances in which time behind bars is unavoidable. Because jail or even prison is within the realm of possibility for anyone charged with a DWI, consulting an experienced DWI attorney as soon as you can is of the utmost importance.

Who Will and Who Won’t Go to Jail?

North Carolina’s current sentencing structure takes into account DWIs that happened after December 1, 2011. If you have a previously clean driving record and your DWI occurred while you were alone in the vehicle and resulted in no injuries, it is not very likely that you will have to serve any jail time.

It is very likely that you will receive a jail sentence if you another pending DWI case, if you were driving on a license that was revoked because of a prior DWI or if you have any other prior DWI convictions that occurred within the last seven years. If your DWI resulted in serious personal injury or death to another person, you will likely be sentenced to jail.

There are certain circumstances under which a jail sentence unavoidable. If anyone in your vehicle was a minor under the age of 18, mentally disabled or if anyone had a physical disability that made it impossible for that person to leave the vehicle unaided, you will receive a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days behind bars. It is important to note that while 30 days is the minimum required sentence, there is no cap on the amount of time a judge may sentence you to if an individual or individuals as listed above were in your vehicle when it was stopped.

Determining Your Sentence

Sentencing varies based on the level of punishment that is established by aggravating and mitigating factors. Misdemeanor DWI convictions are sentenced as a Level 1-5 with Level 1 being the most serious. The maximum prison sentence you could receive for a misdemeanor DWI in North Carolina is two years. For the most serious DWI convictions, Level A1 sentencing will be imposed, which requires a minimum of one year and a maximum of three years in prison.

Alternatives to a Jail Sentence

Depending on the circumstances of your case as well as the tendencies of the judge who presides over the proceedings, there is a possibility that you may be sentenced to an inpatient alcohol treatment rather than a jail term. The law dictates that your time in treatment must be at least the same as the minimum amount of the jail term you would have been sentenced to serve. Some judges, however, prefer to impose a sentence of two days in treatment for every one day of jail time. It is important to note that judges are not required to implement inpatient treatment sentencing. In fact, some judges will not consider it as an option.

Another alternative to serving a straight jail sentence is to work with the court to reach an agreement that the sentence may be served on the weekends or during a time when it will not prevent you from attending work or school.

Depending on the circumstances of your case, time behind bars may be a real possibility if you are convicted. Don’t leave anything up to chance.