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What Happens If I’m Convicted of A DWI?

What Happens If I’m Convicted of A DWI?

By Attorney, Drew Nelson

What Happens If I’m Convicted of A DWI?

Being convicted of Driving While Impaired or (DWI), is a very serious matter. A DWI can be based upon impairment involving alcohol, prescription drugs, illegal drugs, or other impairments.  According to, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “Interactions between alcohol and other substances in the body such as certain medications or illegal drugs increase impairment and make driving more risky.”

If a person pleads guilty or is convicted of a DWI, its important to know what exactly happens once convicted.

If you are convicted of a DWI in North Carolina, this means the state has met the burden of proof. There are only two ways the state may prove that a driver was driving while impaired. These two ways are proven by:

  1. Showing that the driver’s physical or mental faculties, or both, have been appreciably impaired by an impairing substance.
  2. Showing that the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC), is 0.08 or higher. The severity of the impairment does not matter when someone’s BAC is above the legal limit of 0.08. A seemingly sober person with a BAC of greater than 0.08 can still be convicted of DWI.

What Really Happens

According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, there are five levels of misdemeanor Driving While Impaired. The levels range from the most serious (level 1), to the least serious (level five). To determine the proper level of punishment, the sentencing Judge determines whether or not there are any grossly aggravating factors, aggravating factors, and mitigating factors present.

These five levels are:

  • LEVEL 1: A person subject to Level 1 punishment may be fined up to $4,000 and shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment that includes a minimum term of not less than 30 days and a maximum term of not more than 24 months. The term of imprisonment may be suspended but only if a condition of special probation is imposed to require the person to serve a term of imprisonment of at least 30 days.
  • LEVEL 2: A person subject to Level 2 punishment may be fined up to $2,000 and shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment that includes a minimum term of not less than 7 days and a maximum term of not more than 12 months. The term of imprisonment may be suspended only if a condition of special probation is imposed to require the person to serve a term of imprisonment of at least 7 days.
  • LEVEL 3: A person subject to Level 3 punishment may be fined up to $1,000 and shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment that includes a minimum term of not less than 72 hours and a maximum term of not more than 6 months. However, the active sentence may be suspended upon the conditions that the person (1) be imprisoned for a term of at least 72 hours as a condition of special probation; or (2) perform community service for a term of at least 72 hours; or (3) or any combination of these conditions. The person must obtain a substance abuse assessment and the education or treatment required for the restoration of a driver’s license.
  • LEVEL 4: A person subject to Level 4 punishment may be fined up to $500 and shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment that includes a minimum term of not less than 48 hours and a maximum term of not more than 120 days. The term of imprisonment may be suspended upon the conditions that the person (1) be imprisoned for a term of 48 hours as a condition of special probation; or (2) perform community service for a term of 48 hours; or (3) any combination of these conditions. The person must obtain a substance abuse assessment and the education or treatment required for the restoration of a driver’s license.
  • LEVEL 5: A person subject to Level 5 punishment may be fined up to $200 and be sentenced to a term of imprisonment that includes a minimum term of not less than 24 hours and a maximum term of not more than 60 days. The term of imprisonment may be suspended upon the conditions that the person (1) be imprisoned for a term of 24 hours as a condition of special probation; or (2) perform community service for a term of 24 hours; or (3) any combination of these conditions. The person shall obtain a substance abuse assessment and the education or treatment required for the restoration of a driver’s license.

Level 1 and 2 punishment typically involves repeat offenders, persons whose license are revoked for previous impaired driving offenses, impaired drivers who are transporting young children and impaired drivers who hurt someone in a crash. Impaired drivers must complete a substance abuse assessment and comply with any recommended treatment as a condition for having their driver’s license restored at the end of the revocation period.

In some circumstances a person convicted of a DWI may be eligible for a limited driving privilege to allow them to continue to drive for work or other activities.

A DWI is a serious offense that can have lifelong implications. If you or anyone you know is involved in a DWI offense, contact our office today or call us at (336) 249-2101 to speak with one of our experienced attorneys.

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