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DUI: Is it a misdemeanor or a felony?

On Behalf of | Jun 9, 2021 | criminal law

Every year, numerous North Carolina residents find themselves facing charges for drunk driving. In most cases, misdemeanor DUI charges are likely to follow, but felony charges are a possibility. Whether you face a misdemeanor or felony charge against you depends on the details of your case and if you have any previous DUI charges already on record.

When is a DUI a misdemeanor, and when is it a felony? What are the differences in penalties? What can I do to fight DUI charges?

A DUI becomes a felony when…

A DUI becomes a felony when a person achieves three DUI convictions in seven years. Otherwise, DUIs are generally considered misdemeanors; however, there are different levels of misdemeanor charges — Level V being the least severe and Level I being the most. The differences are as follows:

  • Level V: First-time offender, punishable by a minimal fine and a minimum of 24 hours in jail
  • Level IV: First-time offender, punishable by a minimum of 48 hours in jail and a fine of no more than $500
  • Level III: First-time offender, punishable by a minimum of 72 hours in jail and up to $1,000 in fines
  • Level II: Repeat offender, punishable by a fine of no more than $2,000, a minimum jail time of seven days and completion of a substance abuse program
  • Level I: Repeat offender, punishable by a minimum jail term of 30 days, a fine of $4,000 or less and completion of a substance abuse program

With levels III to V, a judge may suspend the sentence if one completes the minimum jail time, participates in a set number of hours of community services or agrees not to operate their vehicle for a set number of days. With levels I and II, a judge cannot suspend the sentence. Why? These individuals are repeat offenders who have either had their licenses suspended or revoked, have hurt someone in a collision due to driving under the influence or were transporting children while drunk — all significant offenses.

What can I do to fight DUI charges?

When charged with a DUI, you may feel like there is nothing you can do, but that isn’t true. You do have the right to defend yourself. You do have the right to question the evidence. With the right help in your corner, you may be able to get the charges dismissed or, at least, have them reduced to minimize any consequences associated with a conviction.