Drunk Driving Defense Law in North Carolina

Drunk driving is a serious offense in North Carolina. Drivers face the possibility of losing their license, paying thousands in fines, and even jail time. Understanding how your state handles drunk driving charges can help you understand your rights and find a knowledgeable North Carolina DUI defense attorney to help resolve your case.

North Carolina Drunk Driving Laws

North Carolina is one of the toughest states on impaired driving. The state prohibits driving or being in the control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or having a BAC of .08% or more. For commercial drivers, the BAC threshold is only .04%.

North Carolina has a zero-tolerance policy for drivers under the age of 21 years old. This means an underage driver may be charged with a DWI for having any alcohol in their system.

All individuals charged with drunken driving are subject to points on their driver’s license, an alcohol assessment or treatment, community service, the use of an ignition interlock device (IID), and even vehicle forfeiture for habitual offenders.

Implied Consent: Yes

Enhanced Penalties: an accident resulting in physical injury or death, or driving while intoxicated with a child under age 18 years old in the vehicle; a BAC level of .15 % or more; prior convictions within 7 years

North Carolina typically treats first-time driving while intoxicated as a misdemeanor. The state breaks down the possible penalties into levels that increase in severity for every subsequent offense, Level V being the least serious level:

  • Level V: $200 fine; 24 hours to 60 days imprisonment; license revocation
  • Level IV: $500 fine; 48 hours to 120 days imprisonment; license revocation
  • Level III: $1,000 fine; 72 hours to six months imprisonment; permanent license revocation
  • Level II: $2,000 fine; seven days to one-year imprisonment; permanent license revocation
  • Level I: $4,000 fine; 30 days to two years imprisonment; permanent license revocation

Habitual offenders who have been convicted of three prior DWIs within seven years are charged with a felony offense. The sentence for a felony increases drastically, and the judge may require vehicle forfeiture as part of the penalties.

What an Officer Is Looking For in a DWI Stop

Law enforcement officers in North Carolina are trained to spot drivers operating motor vehicles in an unsafe manner. If an officer spots a driver weaving in and out of traffic, driving erratically, speeding, or driving at night without headlights, the officer may attempt to pull the driver over.

Once the officer has stopped the driver, they will investigate for further proof to charge the driver with DWI. Signs of impairment could include a driver’s breath that smells distinctly like alcohol or slurred speech.

Under-21 Penalties

Drivers under 21 can face losing their license if any of the following happens:

  • Buying or trying to buy alcohol
  • Helping someone else buy alcohol
  • Driving with ANY alcohol in their system
  • Using a fake I.D. to buy alcohol
  • Using someone else’s I.D. to buy alcohol

Defending Against DWI Charges in North Carolina

A DWI attorney will attempt to prove there were errors made when the sobriety test was administered or when the chemical test was taken. Another tactic is to show the officer did not have probable cause to pull the vehicle over. A legal professional could also negotiate a plea agreement for a first-time offender to reduce the penalties for a DWI.

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