DWI Sentencing Factors in North Carolina

Charlotte Criminal Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “What happens if I am convicted of a DUI or DWI in Charlotte North Carolina?”


DWI, driving while impaired, is a serious charge. When a driver is stopped for DWI, they can expect to perform some roadside field sobriety tests and breathe into a breathalyzer device. If police officers believe that you are demonstrating signs of impairment, you will likely be arrested for DWI. If you are charged with DWI you will be facing a wide range of penalties if you are convicted. A knowledgeable DWI attorney will help protect your rights and will craft a defense to charges through the legal process.


martini-2-Charlotte-Mooresville-Monroe-DWI-lawyer-300x199What is the Legal Drinking Limit in North Carolina?


The legal drinking limit in North Carolina is 0.08% BAC (blood alcohol concentration) for adults age 21 and up. North Carolina has zero tolerance laws in place for those under the age of 21. Commercial drivers must not exceed a BAC of 0.04%. Drivers in North Carolina are subject to implied consent laws. The law requires drivers to submit to breath, urine, or blood tests if requested by law enforcement. Law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion to believe you are impaired. If you refuse to take a test, you will face additional penalties that include an automatic suspension of your driver’s license.


DWI Sentencing Factors


DWI sentencing is based on a number of factors such as the severity of the infraction and whether you have had previous DWI convictions. The judge will review the three main types of factors when determining a sentence. These factors include grossly aggravating, aggravating, and mitigating. Here are some examples of factors used in DWI sentencing.


Grossly Aggravating Factors


  • DWI conviction within the past seven years
  • DWI conviction during suspension for DWI
  • Serious injury to another while DWI
  • Minor child in vehicle while DWI


If you have more than one grossly aggravating factor, you will receive an increased sentence.


Aggravating Factors


  • Reckless driving while DWI
  • BAC of 0.15 or above
  • Revoked license at time of DWI
  • Speeding to elude police during DWI stop
  • Prior DWI convictions
  • Driving more than 30 mph over posted speed limit while DWI
  • Passing a school bus while DWI


There are levels of aggravating factors from one to five. Penalties for the lowest grossly aggravating factors include a  minimum of 48 hours in jail and a fine of $200. The highest level of grossly aggravating factors will result in a jail sentence ranging from 12 months to 32 months and a fine of up to $10,000. The judge will also evaluate any mitigating factors.


Mitigating Factors


  • BAC just slightly over the limit of 0.08%
  • Good driving record
  • No other traffic violations at time of DWI
  • Impairment due to legal prescription medication
  • Agree to submit to mental health evaluation


Mitigating factors are those that help to reduce the potential sentence. The judge will weigh the presence of all factors to decide on the sentence.


Can I Fight DWI Charges?


A DWI conviction can have a long-term negative impact on your life. If convicted you will have a criminal record that could prevent you from obtaining a loan, qualifying for an apartment, or getting accepted into college. The judge has some leeway when imposing a DWI conviction sentence. It is extremely helpful to have legal representation to fight the charges and to provide mitigating factors to offset the potential sentence.


If you were charged with DWI, we can help. Please contact us today to get a phone, video or in-person consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.






The criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC make it their mission to zealously defend their clients on a wide range of criminal matters at both the state and federal levels. These matters may include any charge from traffic offenses; DWI/DUI; drug charges (from simple possession to possession with intent to distribute and trafficking); gun permit denials; weapons offenses; and property crimes (larceny, breaking and entering, robbery, fraud, embezzlement, white collar offenses); to sexually related offenses (indecent exposure; sexual assault, crimes against nature, removal from sex offender registry); and violent crimes (domestic violence; assault; manslaughter; homicide, murder). Other legal issues that Arnold & Smith, PLLC criminal clients may be facing include restraining orders, restraining order and probation violations, expungements; appeals; and immigration issues related to criminal charges. Our criminal defense attorneys are passionate about ensuring that individuals empower themselves by being informed about their constitutional rights, and stand at the ready to fight in the defense of those facing criminal charges.






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