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North Carolina DWI Sentencing Chart

DWI Punishment Levels

Aggravated Level One DWI Punishment: N.C.G.S. § 20-179(f3)

  • Imposed if three or more grossly aggravating factors are present
  • Fine: Up to $10,000
  • Jail: Minimum of 12 months, maximum of 36 months, with no eligibility for parole
    • Prison term can be suspended only if a condition of special probation is imposed requiring a minimum prison term of at least 120 days.

    • If probation is imposed, it must include the condition that the defendant abstain from alcohol for at least 120 days and undergo a substance abuse assessment and related treatment or education.

Level One DWI Punishment: N.C.G.S. § 20-179(g)

  • Imposed if either:
    • The defendant was accompanied by a minor child (under 18) at the time of the offense
    • Any two of the other grossly aggravating factors are present
  • Fine: Up to $4,000
  • Jail: Minimum of 30 days, maximum of 24 months
    • Prison term may be suspended only if a condition of special probation is imposed, including a minimum prison term of 30 days

    • If probation is imposed:
      • Probation will include the requirement that the defendant undergo a substance abuse assessment and related treatment or education.
      • Probation may include a requirement of abstaining from alcohol, monitored by a continuous alcohol monitoring system, for anywhere from 30 days up to the maximum of the term of probation

Level Two DWI Punishment: N.C.G.S. § 20-179(h)

  • Imposed if:
    • No minor child (under 18) was present in the vehicle
    • Only one other grossly aggravating factor is present
  • Fine: Up to $2,000
  • Jail: Minimum of seven days, maximum of 12 months
    • Prison term may be suspended only if a condition of special probation is imposed, including a minimum prison term of seven days

    • If probation is imposed:
      • Probation will include the requirement that the defendant undergo a substance abuse assessment and related treatment or education.
      • Probation may include a requirement of abstaining from alcohol, monitored by a continuous alcohol monitoring system, for anywhere from 30 days up to the maximum of the term of probation, along with any other lawful conditions of probation the judge should choose to impose.

Level Three DWI Punishment: N.C.G.S. § 20-179(i)

  • Imposed if:
    • No grossly aggravating factors are present
    • Aggravating factors outweigh any mitigating factors
  • Fine: Up to $1,000
  • Jail: Minimum of 72 hours, maximum of six months
    • Prison term may be suspended, but the suspended sentence must include:

      • Prison term of at least 72 hours as a condition of special probation OR

      • Community service for at least 72 hours OR
      • Any combination of the above
  • If probation is imposed, it will include the requirement that the defendant undergo a substance abuse assessment and related treatment or education, along with any other lawful conditions of probation the judge should choose to impose.

Level Four DWI Punishment: N.C.G.S. § 20-179(j)

  • Imposed if either:
    • No aggravating or mitigating factors are present
    • Aggravating factors are counterbalanced by any mitigating factors
  • Fine: Up to $500
  • Jail: Minimum of 48 hours, maximum of 120 days
    • Prison term may be suspended, but the suspended sentence must include:

      • Prison term of at least 48 hours as a condition of special probation OR

      • Community service for at least 48 hours OR
      • Any combination of the above
  • If probation is imposed, it will include the requirement that the defendant undergo a substance abuse assessment and related treatment or education, along with any other lawful conditions of probation the judge should choose to impose.

Level Five DWI Punishment: N.C.G.S. § 20-179(k)

  • Imposed if:
    • Mitigating factors outweigh any aggravating factors
  • Fine: Up to $200
  • Jail: Minimum of 24 hours, maximum of 120 days
    • Prison term may be suspended, but the suspended sentence must include:

      • Prison term of at least 24 hours as a condition of special probation OR

      • Community service for at least 24 hours OR
      • Any combination of the above
  • If probation is imposed, it will include the requirement that the defendant undergo a substance abuse assessment and related treatment or education, along with any other lawful conditions of probation the judge should choose to impose.

DWI Sentencing Factors

Grossly Aggravating Factors

The four factors below are classified as "grossly aggravating" for North Carolina DWI sentencing purposes:

(1) A prior conviction for an offense involving impaired driving if:

  1. The conviction occurred within seven years before the date of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced
  2. The conviction occurs after the date of the offense for which the defendant is presently being sentenced, but prior to or contemporaneously with the present sentencing
  3. The conviction occurred in District court, the case was appealed to Superior Court, the appeal has been withdrawn or the case has been remanded back to District Court and a new sentencing hearing has not been held pursuant to G.S. 20‑38.7.

(2) Driving by the defendant at the time of the offense while his or her driver's license was revoked for an offense of impaired driving

(3) The defendant's impaired driving at the time of the offense seriously injured someone.

(4) The defendant was driving while (i) a child under 18, (ii) a person with the mental development of a child under 18 or (iii) a person with a physical disability that would prevent unaided exit from the vehicle was in the vehicle at the time of the offense.

Aggravating Factors

The eight factors below, plus the catch-all, are classified as "aggravating" for North Carolina DWI sentencing purposes:

(1) Gross impairment of the defendant's faculties while driving or an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more within a relevant time after driving

(2) Especially reckless or dangerous driving

(3) Negligent driving that led to a reportable accident

(4) Driving by the defendant while his or her driver's license was revoked

(5) Two or more prior convictions for a motor vehicle offense not involving impaired driving for which at least three points are assigned under G.S. 20‑16 or for which the convicted person's license is subject to revocation, if the convictions occurred within five years of the date of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced, OR one or more prior convictions of an offense involving impaired driving that occurred more than seven years before the date of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced

(6) Conviction of speeding by the defendant while fleeing or attempting to elude apprehension

(7) Conviction of speeding by the defendant by at least 30 mph over the legal limit

(8) Passing a stopped school bus

(9) Any other factor that aggravates the seriousness of the offense

NOTE: Except for paragraph 5, the aggravating factor must have occurred during the same incident as the impaired driving offense.

Mitigating Factors

The seven factors below, plus the catch-all, are classified as "mitigating" for North Carolina DWI sentencing purposes:

(1) Slight impairment of the defendant's faculties resulting solely from alcohol and an alcohol concentration that did not exceed 0.09 at any relevant time after the driving

(2) Slight impairment of the defendant's faculties resulting solely from alcohol, with no chemical analysis having been available to the defendant

(3) Driving at the time of the offense that was safe and lawful except for the impairment of the defendant

(4) A safe driving record, having no convictions for any motor vehicle offense for which at least four points are assigned within five years of the date of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced

(5) Impairment caused primarily by a lawfully prescribed drug for an existing medical condition, and the amount of the drug taken was within the prescribed dosage

(6) Voluntary submission to a mental health facility for assessment after being charged with the impaired driving offense for which he or she is being sentenced and, if recommended by the facility, voluntary participation in the recommended treatment

(6a) Completion of a substance abuse assessment, compliance with its recommendations, and maintaining 60 days of continuous abstinence from alcohol consumption, as proven by a continuous alcohol monitoring (CAM) system. The CAM device must be approved by the Division of Adult Correction (DOC).

(7) Any other factor that mitigates the seriousness of the offense