North Carolina treats driving while impaired as a misdemeanor with five separate penalty levels from V, the least severe, to I, the most severe. Every level carries a mandatory minimum jail sentence, starting with 24 hours to 60 days for a first-time offender.
However, some Level V, IV and III offenders may be eligible for a suspended sentence for a North Carolina DWI charge.
Jail time for each DWI level
Mandatory minimum and maximum sentences for DUI imposed by the state are as follows:
- 24 hours to 60 days in jail for Level V
- 48 hours to 120 days in jail for Level IV
- 72 hours to six months in jail for Level III
- Seven days to one year in jail for Level II
- 30 days to two years in jail for Level I
Qualifying for a suspended sentence
If you face a North Carolina DWI charge, you may be eligible for a suspended sentence with no jail time depending on the circumstances of your case. Requirements for a suspended sentence include:
- Completing a 30-day license suspension and 24 hours of community service for Level V
- Completing a 60-day license suspension and 48 hours of community service for Level IV
- Completing a 90-day license suspension and 72 hours of community service for Level III
Factors determining DWI penalties
The court will review the aggravating and mitigating factors in your case to determine penalties if you receive a conviction. Aggravating factors count as negatives and may include the number of previous DWI convictions, whether you caused property damage or bodily injury, your blood alcohol content at the time of the arrest, whether reckless driving or excessive speed occurred and whether minor children were riding in the vehicle at the time of the arrest.
Mitigating factors work in your favor in the eyes of the court. They include a clean driving record, no prior alcohol-related convictions, a clean criminal history, the lack of an accident or traffic violation in your case and willingness to attend drug and alcohol counseling and education.