Knowledge, Experience, Results

DUI Sentencing in North Carolina


If convicted of a DUI in North Carolina the penalty imposed depends on a number of factors to be weighed by a judge.  Based on the driver’s prior record (or lack thereof) and the circumstances surrounding the conviction the DUI will be given a “level”.  The defendant begins presumptively as a level four.  Each mitigating factor cancels out an aggravating factor and vice versa.  If there are more mitigating factors than aggravating then the level will go down (to a 5).  If there are more aggravating factors than mitigating the level will go up and so will the harshness of the punishment imposed.


Aggravating Factors

  • Level of .15 or more
  • Reckless Driving/Accident
  • Driver License Revoked
  • Prior Conviction of DWI
  • Speeding while attempting to elude
  • Speeding 30mph or more over the posted speed limit
  • Passing a school bus illegally


Mitigating Factors:

  • Slight Impairment where test was unavailable
  • Safe Driving Record
  • Alcohol Concentration did not exceed .09
  • Driving Lawfully (except for impairment) at time of offense
  • Impaired by prescribed dosage of legal medication
  • Voluntary submission to mental health facility


The Impact of Grossly Aggravating Factors

The grossly aggravating factors of a DWI in North Carolina present the most serious of the aggravating circumstances involved in a DWI as it relates to punishment.  If a driver is found to have 2 (TWO) of these grossly aggravating factors they can expect a “Level One Punishment”.  If a driver is found to have 1 (ONE) of these grossly aggravating factors they can expect to have a “Level Two Punishment”. 


Grossly Aggravating Factors:

  • Prior DWI Conviction within 7 years
  • DWI while license is suspended for previous DWI
  • Serious Injury to another person while DWI
  • Child under 16 in vehicle while DWI


Each “level” has a prescribed range of punishments the judge may impose.  They increase in severity from level 5 (least harsh punishment) to level 1 (most harsh).


Level One Punishment:

  • Jail- From 30 days to 24 months
  • Fine- Up to $4,000


Level Two Punishment:

(applied when one grossly aggravating factor is found)

  • Jail- 7 days to 12 months
  • Fine- Up to $2,000


Level Three Punishment:

  • Jail – 72 Hours or,
  • Community Service – 72 Hours or,
  • Any Combination of Above
  • Fine – Up to $500


Level Four Punishment:

  • Jail- 48 Hours or,
  • Community Service – 48 Hours or,
  • Any Combination of Above
  • Fine- Up to $500


Level Five Punishment:

  • Jail- 24 Hours or,
  • Community Service- 24 Hours or,
  • Any Combination of Above
  • Fine- Up to $200