A driving while impaired (DWI) charge in North Carolina can come after any driver operates a vehicle under the influence of a substance that compromises driving ability, such as drugs or alcohol. The most common reason for a DWI is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher for the standard driver, 0.04% for a commercial driver, or any detectable amount for an underage driver. The legal system in North Carolina imposes five levels of DWI convictions. The consequences for conviction will depend on the level of the DWI.
Level 5: The Lowest Level of DWI in North Carolina
A Level 5 DWI is the least severe form of this crime, although it can still come with significant penalties and consequences. A Level 5 DWI means the individual was driving with too much alcohol or an impairing drug in his or her system, but the incident did not result in any aggravating or mitigating factors, or if the mitigating factors outweigh aggravating factors. An aggravating factor can refer to many different circumstances.
- Driving with a BAC at or above 0.15%
- Reckless or dangerous driving
- Causing an accident
- Two or more prior motor vehicle offense convictions
- One or more prior DWI offense convictions
- Fleeing the police
- Speeding over 30 miles per hour above the speed limit
Mitigating factors include slight impairment, a BAC no greater than 0.09%, safe and lawful driving, a safe driving record, and impairment from a prescribed drug. If mitigating and aggravating factors balance each other out during a DWI case, the individual may face a higher charge level. Level 5 is the lowest type of DWI in NC.
The penalties for a Level 5 DWI in North Carolina include suspension of the driver’s license for one year. The driver may qualify for limited driving privileges to get to and from work, church, and other necessary places. The driver can also face a minimum of 24 hours in jail or 24 hours of community service (max sentence 120 days), up to $200 plus court costs, probation, and a mandatory substance abuse assessment and/or education course.
Other DWI Levels
A Level 4 DWI may arise if mitigating factors substantially counterbalance aggravating factors. The penalties include 48 hours to 120 days in jail, up to $500 in fines, and a substance abuse assessment. If the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating factors, but no grossly aggravating factors exist (e.g., a prior DWI conviction, driving on a revoked license, or seriously injuring someone), the individual could receive a Level 3 DWI. Penalties include 72 hours to six months of jail time and fines of up to $1,000.
A Level 2 DWI means the incident involved grossly aggravating factors, but no children under 18 were in the vehicle. Penalties can include a minimum of seven days in jail (maximum 12 months) and up to $2,000 in fines. The most severe level of DWI, Level 1, can occur if a minor under 18 accompanied the defendant at the time of the offense, or if the incident involves two grossly aggravating factors. Penalties are 30 days to 24 months in jail and up to $4,000 in fines.
Aside from the five levels of basic DWIs, North Carolina also has a subcategory: an aggravated Level 1 (A1) DWI. This is the most severe type of DWI, and comes if the DWI involved three or more grossly aggravating factors. The penalties are severe, and include a minimum of 12 months in jail to a maximum of 36 months, with no eligibility for parole. Fines can exceed $10,000 with court costs. The defendant must abstain from alcohol for at least 120 days if probation applies. Level 5 DWI might be the least severe type, but it is still reason enough to speak to a DWI lawyer in Raleigh, NC.