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DWI Levels in North Carolina

During your DWI trial, the prosecution will present any aggravating and grossly aggravating factors that are against you in court. In turn, your attorney will present the mitigating factors in your defense. The level of your sentence depends on the number of each of these factors and whether the mitigating factors outweigh those aggravating and grossly aggravating factors that could enhance your sentencing. It is important to note that repeat offenders face the possibility of additional and stricter punishment under North Carolina DWI law.

Five Levels of Sentencing

There is a five-tiered sentencing structure for North Carolina DWIs. Level 5 is the most common for a first-time DWI offender who has no aggravating factors at play in his case. Level 5 entails a jail sentence of 24 hours to 60 days and a maximum fine of $200. If there are equal mitigating and aggravating factors in your case, you will face a Level 4 sentence of a maximum jail term of 120 days and a fine of no more than $500. A Level 3 sentence will be imposed if there are more aggravating than mitigating factors in your case. Your sentence will include a maximum jail term of 180 days and a fine not to exceed $1,000.

Levels 3, 4 and 5 also have provisions for a probation sentence that include community service, one to three days in jail and completion of a substance abuse assessment and treatment, if necessary.

Levels 1 and 2 are reserved for DWIs with many aggravating factors. Level 2 sentencing is imposed if there is one grossly aggravating factor in your case. A prison term of seven days to one year is required, along with a fine not to exceed $2,000. If two grossly aggravating factors exist in your case, you will be sentenced as a Level 1, with punishment to include a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of two years in prison, plus a fine of no more than $4,000.

It is important to note that Level 1 sentencing may be imposed if one of the following aggravating factors are part of your case: a minor under the age of 18 was in your vehicle; an individual with a mental disability was in the vehicle; or if a person with a physical disability such that they were unable to exit the vehicle without help was in the vehicle at the time of your arrest.

Level A1

The most serious sentencing level for a North Carolina DWI is Level A1. If the judge finds that there are three or more grossly aggravating factors involved in your DWI, you will be sentenced to prison for one to three years and will have to pay a fine of no more than $10,000.

Additional Punishments for Repeat Offenders

It is important to note that repeat offenders—those with additional DWIs on their records—face the possibility of being sentenced to additional fines, more jail time, license suspension and a required substance abuse assessment.

A local DWI defense lawyer is available to help you make sense of the charges you face and North Carolina’s complicated DWI sentencing structure.