What are the Potential Penalties for DWI in North Carolina?

3-1What are the Potential Penalties for DWI in North Carolina?

Driving while impaired (DWI) is a serious offense and one that comes with severe penalties if convicted. According to the North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission, DWI sentencing is back to normal, pre-pandemic operations. In 2022, North Carolina courts imposed sentences for 26,333 DWI convictions. Various consequences for someone found guilty of DWI may include jail time, community service, alcohol assessment and treatment, court costs, and the loss of driving privileges. If you are facing DWI charges, you will want to strongly defend the charges with help from an experienced DWI attorney.


DWI Sentences

Sentencing is based on the level of DWI charges that apply. DWI levels range from level 1 to level 5, with level 1 being the most serious. In addition, there is an aggravated level 1 DWI. In all cases, you may be required to serve some jail time, community service, and an alcohol assessment, as well as a suspension of your driver’s license.


Charlotte DWI Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “Is there more than one way for police to charge a person with DWI?”


Level 5 DWI

Level 5 DWI carries the lowest penalties. You may receive a sentence of up to 60 days in jail. You will receive a license suspension but may qualify for limited driving privileges to drive to and from work or school. You will also be required to participate in community service and have the potential for unsupervised probation.


Level 4 DWI

Level 4 DWI sentences may include up to 120 days in jail. The minimum community service or jail time is 48 hours. You may be allowed unsupervised probation. In some cases, you may be allowed to participate in 48 hours of in-patient alcohol treatment instead of jail time. Since this is still considered a relatively low-level DWI, you may also be eligible to seek limited driving privileges.


Level 3 DWI

Level 3 DWI penalties include up to six months in jail if convicted. The minimum required sentence is 72 hours of jail or community service. You may also be eligible for unsupervised probation. You may qualify for completion of community service ahead of sentencing. Instead of jail, you may opt for 72 hours of in-patient alcohol treatment.



Level 2 DWI

A level 2 DWI conviction carries a penalty of up to 12 months in jail. The lowest penalty for this level is seven days in jail. Depending on the court, you may be allowed to take seven days of alcohol treatment rather than seven days in jail. This level of DWI conviction does not generally allow you to obtain limited driving privileges.


Level 1 DWI

Level 1 DWI penalties include a jail sentence of up to 24 months. The minimum sentence is 30 days in jail. If you are sentenced to 30 days in jail, the judge may allow you to serve the time in alcohol treatment instead of jail. You will not qualify for limited driving privileges and will be subject to the suspension of your license for a period of time.


Aggravated Level 1 DWI

This level of DWI is the most serious because of aggravating factors. The penalties include up to 36 months in jail. The lowest penalty is 120 days in jail, along with alcohol monitoring. The judge may allow you to substitute in-patient alcohol treatment for jail time. Your license will be suspended, and you will not qualify for limited driving privileges.


DWI Sentencing Tips

All levels of DWI come with penalties that will seriously impact your life and the lives of your loved ones. If you want to seek the lowest possible sentence, there are some things you can do. It is best to take action immediately to get a DWI alcohol assessment. The court will order it anyway, so it will show the judge that you are taking responsibility for your actions. You may also want to begin alcohol treatment prior to sentencing. Again, this will help show that you are serious in handling your problem. You may also be able to start community service ahead of your sentencing.


DWI is a serious offense, and charges are often a wake-up call that you need to do something about the situation. Talk to a knowledgeable DWI attorney as soon as possible to defend the charges and to obtain the best possible sentence if you are convicted of the charges. Contact us at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, at (704) 370-2828 to schedule a consultation.







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.



community service | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute (cornell.edu)

community service | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute (cornell.edu)

G.S. 20-138.1 (ncleg.net)


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