North Carolina charges driving while impaired as a misdemeanor. The court penalizes drivers convicted of DWI in five separate levels, from Level V for the least severe offenses to Level I for the most serious crimes.

The judge will categorize your charge based on mitigating factors (positives) and aggravating factors (negatives). If you received a North Carolina DWI charge, understand the potential penalties before you go to court.

Level V offenses

Level V usually applies to first-time DWI convictions. These offenses have no aggravating factors, such as gross impairment, reckless driving or negligence, or mitigating factors such as a clean driving record outweigh the aggravating factors. Level V convictions include the following:

  • Fines up to $200
  • Twenty-four hours to 60 days in jail
  • Suspended sentence for 24 hours of community service and/or 30-day license revocation

Level IV offenses

Second-time offenders with equal aggravating and mitigating factors usually receive Level IV categorization. Penalties include the following:

  • Fines up to $500
  • Forty-eight hours to 120 days in jail
  • Suspended sentence for 48 hours of community service and/or 60-day license suspension

Level III offenses

The court charges drivers with Level III DWI when the case has aggravating factors that significantly outweigh any mitigating factors. Convictions carry the following penalties:

  • Fines up to $1,000
  • Seventy-two hours to six months in jail
  • Suspended sentence for 72 hours of community service and/or 90-day license suspension

Level II offenses

The presence of one grossly aggravating factor and/or repeat DWI offenses usually results in a Level II conviction with these penalties:

  • Fines up to $2,000
  • Seven days to a year in jail
  • No suspension of minimum jail sentence

Level I offenses

Drivers receive the most severe penalties when they have gross aggravating factors, do not have a license, hurt another person in a collision and/or were transporting minor children while impaired. These crimes carry the following penalties:

  • Fines up to $4,000
  • Thirty days to two years in jail
  • No suspension of minimum jail sentence

Drivers who have good records, no prior offenses, only slight impairment at the time of the crash and/or were otherwise driving lawfully will receive decreased sentences for North Carolina DWI. This also applies to those who complete a drug and alcohol treatment program.