When people head to area bars and restaurants with friends, family or co-workers to grab a bite to eat and converse, chances are good that a round of drinks will be ordered. While there is certainly nothing wrong with this, what happens when a person has just one beer, one glass of wine or one cocktail too many before getting behind the wheel?
The unfortunate answer is that many people who make such a mistake end up seeing flashing lights in their rearview mirror. Indeed, law enforcement officials here in North Carolina are trained to spot even the slightest signs of impairment.
If a person does find themselves placed under arrest for DWI/DUI, it's imperative that they don't panic. It's also imperative that they don't underestimate the severity of the situation. That's because North Carolina's DWI/DUI laws are exceedingly stringent.
Misdemeanor DWI/DUI charges
Those found to have a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher can face five levels of misdemeanor charges, with Level V being the least severe and Level I being the most severe.
- Level V: Penalties include a fine of up to $200, and a minimum of 24 hours or a maximum of 60 days in jail
- Level IV: Penalties include a fine of up to $500, and a minimum of 48 hours or a maximum of 120 days in jail
- Level III: Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, and a minimum of 72 hours or a maximum of six months in jail
- Level II: Penalties include a fine of up to $2,000, and a minimum of seven days or a maximum of one year in jail (suspension of minimum sentence is not an option)
- Level I: Penalties include a fine of up to $4,000, and a minimum of 30 days or a maximum of two years in jail (suspension of minimum sentence is not an option)
Level II and I charges are generally reserved for impaired drivers caught driving with a revoked license, repeat offenders, impaired drivers with children in the vehicle, and impaired drivers who cause injuries or fatalities.
Felony DWI/DUI charges
Under the state's Habitual DWI statute, those individuals who have had a three prior DWI/DUI convictions within seven years face felony charges punishable by a minimum of one year in jail. Furthermore, they will be required to complete a substance abuse program while behind bars or as a condition of their parole.
It's important to understand that fines and incarceration are sometimes just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to DWI/DUI charges. Indeed, there's also license revocation, insurance premium hikes and vehicle forfeiture to consider.
Given this reality, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible if you've been arrested for drunk driving.