Sentencing Options in a DWI Case
The sentencing procedures for driving while impaired (DWI) in North Carolina are different than the structured sentencing protocols for other criminal offenses. Instead, a judge must refer to the distinct guidelines laid out in North Carolina General Statute § 20-179. These sentencing guidelines give judges a wide range of options in determining your sentence following a conviction, but they also require mandatory minimum incarceration lengths based on the seriousness of your DWI case.
If you or a loved one has been accused of drunk driving, contact a Charlotte DWI lawyer from Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys. With years of experience successfully defending clients against these charges, we are prepared to help you. Contact us today at (980) 237-4579 to schedule a free and confidential consultation of your case.
What are the Sentencing Options for Aggravated Level 1 DWI?
The harshest sentencing requirements are reserved for aggravated level 1 DWIs. Your DWI will be categorized as this level if three or more grossly aggravating factors are present. Such factors include, but are not limited to:
- Having a prior conviction for a DWI within the last seven years
- Driving with a license revoked for impaired driving at the time of your arrest
- Your impaired driving seriously injured someone
- Having a child in the vehicle at the time of the DWI offense
A conviction for aggravated level 1 DWI will involve a term of 12 to 36 months of imprisonment. This sentence is not parole-eligible. It may only be suspended if you qualify for special probation. Serving time behind bars is a condition of obtaining special probation.
In the context of an aggravated level 1 DWI, you need to spend at least 120 days in jail to be eligible to be placed on special probation. If you are placed on special probation, you must also abstain from alcohol for at least 120 days, which is monitored by a continuous alcohol monitoring device or “CAM”.
Level 1 to 5 DWI Sentencing in North Carolina
The main difference between sentencing for aggravated level 1 DWIs and sentencing for level 1 to 5 offenses is that for levels 1 through 5, it may be easier to reduce, or even avoid the time you spend behind bars, depending on the facts of your case.
The sentence guidelines for Level 1 to Level 5 DWI are as follows:
- 24 hours to 120 days in jail.
- Fines reaching $200.
- There is a possibility for probation, which will include completion of a substance abuse assessment and education.
- Incarceration may be suspended if at least 24 hours was spent in jail, at least 24 hours of community service was completed, or you complete a combination of these two conditions.
- 48 hours to 120 days in jail
- Fines of up to $500
- Potential probation, a requirement of which will be an alcohol/drug evaluation and completion of the recommended treatment.
- Incarceration may be suspended, but such a suspension must include at least 48 hours in jail, 48 hours of community service, or a combination of jail time and community service.
- 72 hours to six months in jail
- Fines reaching $1,000
- Possible probation, which will require the completion of a substance abuse assessment and recommended treatment.
- Incarceration may be suspended so long as 72 hours are spent in jail, 72 hours of community service are completed, or you complete a combination of these conditions.
- Seven days to one year in jail
- Fines of up to $2,000
- Jail time can only be suspended if a special probation term is imposed, including spending at least seven days jail or abstaining from alcohol for 90 days, which is monitored by a CAM device.
- In some cases, if the judge suspends all active sentences in jail, you will also be required to perform 240 hours of community service.
- 30 days to two years in jail
- Fines reaching $4,000
- While there is a possibility of probation, if imposed, it will include a substance abuse assessment and completion of the recommended treatment, abstaining from alcohol for at least 120 days and submitting to continuous alcohol monitoring, and serving a minimum of 10 days in jail.
The classification of your DWI case for Level 3, 4, and 5 depends on weighing the aggravating and mitigating factors of your case. Aggravating factors for Charlotte drunk driving cases include:
- BAC higher than 0.15 or other proof of gross impairment
- Reckless or dangerous driving
- Negligent driving that caused an accident
- Driving with a revoked license
- Prior traffic offenses
- Speeding or attempting to flee
- Passing a stopped school bus
- Any other factor that makes your DWI case more serious
Mitigating factors may be any of the following:
- BAC lower than 0.09 or other evidence of slight impairment
- Safe and lawful driving at the time of the offense
- A safe driving record
- Impairment caused by legally prescribed medication
- Voluntarily seeking treatment for substance abuse
- Any other factor that tends to make the DWI less serious
Contact Us Today for Help With Your DWI Case
Depending on how the aggravating and mitigating factors of your case add up, your DWI sentence can vary significantly. The Charlotte DWI lawyers from Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys have the knowledge and experience to highlight the mitigating factors applicable to your case, and to minimize the aggravating factors at your sentencing hearing. The list of mitigating factors is non-exhaustive, meaning that you and your lawyer can actively take steps following your DWI arrest to show the court that you are taking matters into your own hands and seeking rehabilitation.