DWI Penalties and Sentencing

North Carolina takes driving while impaired charges seriously, , and the offense carries steep consequences. The stigma of a conviction could affect your personal relationships and professional life, in addition to criminal penalties.

DWI convictions often result in life changing consequences including prison, steep fines, probation, loss of license, community service, and alcohol monitoring.  As the accused, you should know your rights, not only during a trial, but also at a sentencing hearing if found guilty of DWI.  We understand the components of sentencing.  We know the prosecutors and judges and can best help you receive the best outcome possible. 

Raleigh DWI Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with a DWI or related offense, contact a Raleigh DWI defense attorney at Coolidge Law Firm. A DWI charge may be the single most important legal matter that you ever face.  The attorneys at Coolidge Law Firm know how to defend your rights and get the results that you need when facing a serious charge like DWI.  DWI charges carry severe penalties so you need to act immediately.  We can start building your defense strategy right away.

Call (919) 239-8448 to schedule a free case evaluation. Coolidge Law Firm represents clients throughout Wake County, including in Raleigh, Cary, Morrisville, Garner, Wendell, Wake Forest, Apex, Fuquay-Varina, Knightdale and Zebulon.


Information About DWI Sentencing


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Sentencing Hearing for DWI in North Carolina

After a DWI conviction in North Carolina, a judge will hold a sentencing hearing to determine whether aggravating or mitigating factors exist that should be considered before sentencing. Such factors may affect the sentence imposed. After hearing these aggravating and mitigating factors, the judge weighs the factors and decides on the appropriate sentencing level.  .

Grossly aggravating factors include:

  • Prior DWI conviction within seven years of the offense for which the person is being sentenced
  • Driving with a minor, a person with the mental development of a child under age 18 or a person with a physical disability that prevented their unaided exit from the vehicle
  • Driving by the defendant at the time of the offense while his or her driver’s license was revoked for impaired driving.
  • The impaired driving caused serious injury to another person

Possible aggravating factors include:

  • Blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 percent or more while driving or within a relevant time after driving
  • Reckless or dangerous driving
  • Negligent driving that led to a reportable accident
  • Driving while your license was revoked for reasons other than a DWI offense
  • A prior conviction for speeding while fleeing or attempting to elude apprehension
  • A prior conviction for speeding by at least 30 miles per hour over the legal limit

Mitigating factors include:

  • Slight impairment solely from alcohol, and an alcohol concentration that did not exceed 0.09 at any relevant time after the driving
  • Slight impairment solely from alcohol with no chemical analysis having been available
  • Driving at the time of the offense that was safe and lawful except the impairment
  • A safe driving record
  • Impairment caused by a lawfully prescribed drug for an existing medical condition, and the amount of the drug taken was the prescribed dosage
  • Voluntary submission to a mental health facility for assessment and if recommended, participation in the recommended treatment.

Mitigating factors  can help to effectively reduce the sentencing level of a DWI conviction. A criminal defense attorney can represent you during the hearing and help present these factors. The court can use the information when deciding on the terms and conditions of your sentence.


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Penalties for DWI-Related Offenses

In Wake County and surrounding areas in North Carolina, Judges determine the appropriate sentencing level after carefully weighing the grossly aggravating, aggravating, and mitigating factors in a particular case.  Judges then also determine the appropriate sentencing parameters given the assigned punishment level.  In North Carolina, all DWI convictions are sentenced according to the following levels: 

Aggravated Level One Punishment is one of the most severe punishments for DWI offenses in North Carolina. It can be applied when three or more grossly aggravating factors are present. It can result in a minimum of 12 months in jail and a maximum of 36 months, with no eligibility for parole. A fine of up to $10,000 also could be imposed.

Level One Punishment under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-179 could be imposed if a driver has two grossly aggravating factors when arrested for a DWI. It could result in between 30 days and two years in prison and a fine of up to $4,000. Probation also could be imposed, which could include the requirement of a substance abuse assessment and related treatment or education, plus abstaining from alcohol.

Level Two Punishment may be applied if the driver has only one grossly aggravating factor. The penalties include between seven days and 12 months in jail, in addition to a fine up to $2,000. Probation also could be imposed with restrictions similar to a level one punishment.

Level Three Punishment can be applied if no grossly aggravating factors are present and aggravating factors substantially outweigh any mitigating factors. Punishments include a minimum of 72 hours in jail or 72 hours community service and a maximum of six months and a fine up to $1,000.

Level Four Punishment could apply if no aggravating or mitigating factors are present or aggravating factors are substantially counterbalanced by any mitigating factors. Penalties include a minimum of 48 hours in jail or 48 hours of community service and a maximum of 120 days, plus a fine of up to $500.

Level Five Punishment would include a minimum of 24 hours in jail or 24 hours of community service and a maximum of 120 days, plus a fine of up to $200. The punishment could be applied if there are no aggravating or mitigating factors or mitigating factors substantially outweigh any aggravating factors.

Penalties can vary for the offense if the driver has three or more DWI convictions within the 10 years prior to the current offense. The crime could be considered a felony, which could carry at least one year in prison.

In addition to the criminal penalties listed above, it is important to know an arrest for a North Carolina impaired driving offense could lead to your driver’s license being administratively revoked for at least 30 days. If you are convicted of the offense, you could lose driving privileges for even longer.


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Finding the Best DWI Defense Lawyer in Wake County

If you have been arrested for a DWI in Wake County or surrounding areas in North Carolina, contact a DWI defense attorney at Coolidge Law Firm. Seek experienced counsel to get the best possible results in your drunk driving case. Call (919) 239-8448 for a free case evaluation.

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