What’s the best/worst case scenario for those arrested for drunk driving in North Carolina?

Attorney J. Bradley Smith answering the question: “How can an attorney help me with my DWI?”


Those busted for drunk driving in North Carolina understandably have a million questions following the arrest. Some common examples include how much will the arrest end up costing, is jail time possible and what impact will the arrest have on your future?


Handcuffed hands Charlotte Drunk Driving Lawyer North Carolina DWI AttorneyAnother one of the most common questions involves a best case/worst case scenario. Drivers often feel better knowing what the range of possible outcomes is in their case. Though nothing is absolute and your particular circumstances will greatly impact the outcome, the following are some good examples of possible best case/worst case scenarios.


The first thing to note is that the law can be surprisingly severe even for first-time offenders. North Carolina’s drunk driving law says that drivers will face fines, possible short jail times or community service, court costs and a suspended license. However, there are a variety of other factors that can ratchet these punishments upward.


Specifically, the law accounts for what are known as “aggravating” and even “grossly aggravating” factors, which can increase the severity of punishments facing first-time offenders. Examples of such aggravating factor include arrests while transporting a minor child, having exceptionally high blood alcohol content or prior drunk driving offenses on your record.


Assuming there are no aggravating or grossly aggravating factors at play in your case, generally a best case scenario for those who plead guilty would involve only a small amount of community service, several hundred dollars in fines and a relatively short-term license suspension. These legal penalties do not include things like drastically increased insurance premiums and other issues that occur outside the criminal justice system.


Among possible worst-case scenarios, a driver in North Carolina could be forced to spend several years behind bars, pay thousands of dollars in fines and then have no license upon his or her return to society. The law says that the most severe level of punishment is reserved for those cases when three or more grossly aggravating factors exist. In such a serious case, the driver could face up to $10,000 in fines and a maximum jail sentence of 36 months without possibility of parole.


Arnold & Smith, PLLC is a Charlotte based criminal defense, traffic violation defense and civil litigation law firm servicing Charlotte and the surrounding area. If you or someone you know need legal assistance, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828 or find additional resources here.


About the Author:

jbradley.jpgBrad Smith is a Managing Member with Arnold & Smith, PLLC where he focuses on the areas of criminal defense, DUI / DWI defense and traffic defense. Mr. Smith began his legal career in Charlotte, North Carolina as an Assistant District Attorney. In 2006, he entered private practice focusing almost entirely on criminal defense.

Born and raised in Charlotte, Mr. Smith is married with his two sons’ and one daughter. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, boating, golf and hiking near his mountain home in western North Carolina.



“Information Concerning Alcohol and Driving While Impaired,” published at NCDPS.gov.



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