Whether you live in North Carolina, come for a visit or pass through on your way to another destination, you must abide by the laws of the state while in it. If you find yourself in trouble with law enforcement at any time, it is essential that you know how the state laws apply to your circumstances and what punishments could result if you face a conviction for criminal charges.
In particular, if you find yourself pulled over by a police officer and charged with DWI, understanding what this means for you could help build the foundation for a meaningful criminal defense.
Levels of DWI charges
This state has five levels of criminal charges that could apply to a DWI situation, depending on the circumstances. All of these levels fall into the misdemeanor category. However, each level comes with different possible consequences, with the fifth level being the least severe. The categories and their possible penalties include the following:
- Level V DWI could result in a minimum of 24 hours in jail as well as a maximum fine of $200. The maximum jail sentence for this level is 60 days.
- Level IV DWI could result in a maximum fine of $500 and at least 48 hours in jail. The maximum sentence for time in jail at this level is 120 days.
- Level III DWI could lead to a minimum of 72 hours behind bars and a maximum fine of $1,000. Jail time could reach a maximum of six months for a conviction at this level.
- Level II DWI convictions could have a minimum jail sentence of seven days and a maximum fine of $2,000. The maximum jail sentence at this level is one year.
- Level I DWI could lead to a $4,000 fine maximum and at least 30 days in jail. At most, a conviction at this level could result in two years in jail.
In some cases, the judge could suspend the sentence in exchange for other penalties, such as community service or loss of driving privileges, but for Level I and Level II, the judge cannot suspend the minimum sentence. Individuals charged at Levels I and II are typically repeat offenders, those who violate other laws while driving while intoxicated or who cause harm to others in a crash.
Felony charges could result
It is important to note that the state does have felony DWI charges as well under the Habitual DWI statute. This statute applies to drivers who have three previous DWI convictions in the last seven years. The sentencing for a felony DWI conviction involves a minimum of one year in jail, and the judge cannot suspend that sentence.
Handling your charges
If an officer has charged you with DWI in North Carolina, knowing where the charges place you in terms of severity could prove vital to your case. Discussing the allegations, your legal options and how to approach your case with an experienced defense attorney may be useful to you.