DWI Arrest in North Carolina: Will I Go to Jail?

A DWI (Driving While Impaired) arrest can be a shocking experience, leaving many wondering: "Will I go to jail?" In North Carolina, DWI sentencing operates under its own unique guidelines, separate from the state's structured sentencing laws. The severity of punishment hinges on several factors, including the specifics of the case and the offender's prior record. Here's a breakdown of what to expect:

Sentencing Factors:

The court evaluates DWI cases based on three key categories:

  • Grossly Aggravating Factors: These include prior DWI convictions within seven years, or driving on a revoked license due to an impaired revocation.
  • Aggravating Factors: Examples include DWI convictions outside the seven-year window, or driving on a revoked license for reasons unrelated to impairment.
  • Mitigating Factors: These encompass slight impairment (just over the legal limit), completion of a DWI assessment, and a safe driving record.

Mandatory Jail Time:

  • Aggravated Level One DWI: If three or more grossly aggravating factors are present, the offender must serve a minimum of 120 days in jail.

  • Level One DWI: With two or more grossly aggravating factors, or if a child under 18 was in the vehicle at the time of the offense, a Level One DWI applies, leading to a mandatory 30-day jail term (which can be reduced to 10 days if the offender agrees to wear an alcohol monitoring device for 120 days).

No Mandatory Jail Time:

  • Level Two DWI: With one grossly aggravating factor, a Level Two DWI may carry a mandatory 7-day jail term, but this can be waived with the use of an alcohol monitoring device and completion of 240 hours of community service.

  • Level Three, Four, or Five DWI: If no grossly aggravating factors exist, the judge weighs aggravating and mitigating factors:

    • Level Three: Aggravating factors outweigh mitigating ones.
    • Level Four: Factors balance each other out.
    • Level Five: Mitigating factors outweigh aggravating ones. In these cases, no jail time is mandatory. Instead, the offender may be sentenced to 24-72 hours of community service, depending on the level.

DWI sentencing involves a complex interplay of factors, and an experienced attorney can be crucial in navigating these nuances, potentially influencing the judge's decision on the level and any resulting jail time. If you're concerned about jail time or have questions about a pending DWI charge, contact the Criminal Defense Team at Jetton and Meredith today!