Drunk Driving Penalties in North Carolina

Understanding the laws and penalties in North Carolina regarding driving under the influence can be very helpful for persons facing these charges.

When a person is arrested on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol, many questions can arise. The experience can be unsettling and knowing what to expect can be one way of helping to navigate such a situation. Learning the laws in North Carolina that govern the penalties for drunk driving is therefore important for all drivers.

The North Carolina General Assembly identifies the level of blood alcohol content that qualifies as intoxicated as anything at least 0.08 percent or greater. This is the threshold used for any DUI arrest whether misdemeanor or felony. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, some states impose felony charges on even a second offense. In North Carolina, persons arrested for a fourth DUI offense within seven years can be charged with a felony.

What Penalties can Drivers Face for DUI Convictions in North Carolina?

Drivers who are convicted of DUI offenses can face a range of penalties. These may include fines, jail time or the use of an ignition interlock device. There are five different misdemeanor levels and a felony DUI level that drivers can be charged with in North Carolina.

Descriptions of the penalties associated are provided by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. Level I and Level II offenses are those that involve persons charged with driving under the influence with prior convictions on their records, with existing revoked licenses, with minor children in their vehicles or who have been deemed to have caused injury to others.

The penalties associated with each misdemeanor offense level are as follows:

  • Level I penalties include fines up to $4,000 and jail time lasting from 30 days to two years.
  • Level II penalties include fines up to $2,000 and jail time lasting from 7 to 365 days.
  • Level III penalties include fines up to $1,000 and jail time lasting from 72 hours to six months.
  • Level IV penalties include fines up to $500 and jail time lasting from 48 hours to 120 days.
  • Level V penalties include fines up to $200 and jail time lasting from 24 hours to 60 days.

A judge is not allowed to suspend the minimum jail sentence for either a Level I or Level II offense but can suspend it for Level III, IV or V offenses if certain criteria are met. Felony offenses carry a minimum one-year jail sentence which also cannot be suspended by a judge.

Get Help Immediately

Because of the severity of the penalties for a drunk driving conviction in North Carolina, drivers arrested on these charges are urged to contact a lawyer promptly. Getting help soon is important in the defense process.

Keywords: drunk driving, DUI, penalties