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When does a DWI become a felony?

On Behalf of | Jun 28, 2023 | criminal defense, DWI/DUI

In North Carolina, you can get a driving while impaired (DWI) charge if you operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or certain controlled substances, such as drugs. Although DWI generally falls under misdemeanor criminal offenses, certain factors can turn it into a felony charge.

DWI as a misdemeanor

People who operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08% or higher or any amount of certain controlled substances usually get a misdemeanor DWI charge. This charge goes from level one to five; level one is the worst and has the heaviest penalties, and level five is the least serious and has the lightest sanctions. These penalties might include fines and jail time.

The court often considers various aggravating and mitigating factors to determine the level of your DWI charge. These factors include prior convictions, injuries caused, your driving record and the presence of legal medications in your system at the time of the DWI.

DWI as a felony

Certain factors can turn your DWI charge into a felony. Felonies are serious crimes that usually carry severe penalties.

If you get four DWIs within a 10-year period, your fourth offense will likely count as Habitual Impaired Driving and qualify as a Class F felony. A conviction may result in more than 24 months of jail time and the permanent revocation of your license.

Another reason you might get a felony DWI is if you cause serious injuries or death. Causing severe injuries usually qualifies as a Class F felony. Meanwhile, causing death results in a Class D felony with even heavier penalties.

North Carolina’s DWI laws are both strict and complex, and facing charges without a solid defense can lead to serious trouble. An experienced attorney can advocate for you in court and help fight for your legal rights.