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DWI Sentence Laws in North Carolina

DWI Sentence Factors

In North Carolina, DWI sentencing is structured into six levels, ranging from the most severe Aggravated Level One to the least severe Level Five as per the North Carolina General Statutes (N.C.G.S.) § 20-179.

In case of conviction for a DWI, the judge will hold call the defendant for a sentencing hearing, determine what DWI sentence factors are present in the case for the offense committed and then decide on the appropriate punishment level.

The following are the three DWI sentence factors along with the descriptive criteria that determines placement of an offence in each of these categories.

Grossly Aggravating Factors – Rated as the ‘Worst’

The following four factors are classified as “grossly aggravating” factors for DWI:

  • The convicted has had a prior conviction for an offense involving impaired driving if:
  • It occurred within the seven years before the date of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced now, OR
  • It occurred after the date of the offense for which the defendant is presently being sentenced now but before the present sentencing, OR
  • It occurred in District Court and the case has gone to the superior court, or the appeal has been formerly withdrawn or the case has been remanded back to the District Court and no new sentencing hearing has been held.
  • The driver’s license of the defendant was revoked for impaired drivingwhen the offense occurred.
  • The defendant caused serious injuries to another person because of the impaired driving at the time of offense.
  • There wasa child under the age of 18 years, a person with a physical disability or a person with the development of a child under 18 with the defendant in the car when the offense occurred.

Aggravating Factors – Rated as ‘Bad’

The following eight factors are classified as “aggravating” for DWI sentencing in North Carolina:

  • The defendant is facing gross impairment while driving or showed an alcohol consumption concentration of 0.15 or more. A chemical analysis presented at trial is used for judging the alcohol concentration possessed by the defendant at any time of the driving.
  • The defendant was deliberately involved in reckless or dangerous driving.
  • The defendant’s negligence in driving led to an accident reporting.
  • The defendant was driving at the time of offense even when his driver’s license was revoked.
  • The defendant had two or more prior convictions of 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.
  • The defendant was convicted under G.S. 20‑141.5 of speeding while fleeing or attempting to elude apprehension.
  • The defendant was convicted under G.S. 20‑141 of speeding by exceeding at least 30 miles per hour over the legal limit.
  • The defendant passed over a stopped school bus in violation of G.S. 20‑217.
  • The defendant was found guilty of any other factor that aggravates the seriousness of the offense.

Mitigating Factors – Rated as ‘Better’

The following seven specific factors are classified as “mitigating” for DWI sentencing purposes and are considered the least offensive of all others.

  • The defendant is facing slight impairment resulting only because of alcohol consumption, with its concentration not exceeding 0.09 at any relevant time during driving.
  • The defendant is facing slight impairment resulting only because of alcohol consumption, and there is no chemical analysis available.
  • The defendant was driving safely and lawfully except for the impairment of the defendant’s faculties.
  • The defendant has a safe driving record, and hasn’t been convicted for any motor vehicle offense for which at least four points are assigned under G.S. 20‑16 or for which the person’s license is subject to revocation within five years of the date of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced.
  • The defendant’s impairment was caused primarily because of a lawfully prescribed drug for an existing medical condition, and the amount of the drug taken was within the prescribed dosage.
  • The defendant has voluntarily attended a mental health facility for assessment after he was charged with the impaired driving offense for which he is being sentenced, and, if recommended by the facility, he has voluntary participated in the recommended treatment.
  • The defendant is involved in any other factor that mitigates the seriousness of the offense.

Contact Johnson & Nicholson, PLLC today of you have been charged with a DWI offense. Our attorneys have the skill and experience needed to handle the case with care and we offer private and confidential consultation

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