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What you need to know about DUI/DWI in North Carolina

North Carolina residents who believe a DUI/DWI charge is no big deal should seriously consider rethinking their position. In truth, our state has always had serious consequences for those arrested on drunk driving charges and after 1999 those consequences became even more severe due to the Governor's DWI Initiative.

To determine the penalties for operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 and higher, offenders are assigned a level between I and V, with Level I being the most severe. Whether or not the driver has had previous drunk driving arrests will factor into the Level assignment.

-- Level I: A mandatory (cannot be suspended) jail sentence of between 30 days and two years along with a fine of up to $4,000. Those who fall into this Level would likely benefit from the services of a DUI attorney to get the minimum penalty.-- Level II: A mandatory (cannot be suspended) jail sentence of between seven days and one year along with a fine of up to $2,000. Again, a lawyer might help the defendant receive the minimum punishment.-- Level III: A jail sentence of up to six months (72 hours is the minimum) and a fine of up to $1,000. A judge might suspend the jail time if the defendant meets specific requirements.-- Level IV: A jail sentence of up to 120 days (48 hours is the minimum) and a fine of up to $500. Again, a judge could suspend the jail sentence under certain requirements.-- Level V: A jail sentence of up to 60 days (24 hours is the minimum) and a fine of up to $200. As before, it's possible to have the sentence suspended under specific requirements.

Underage drivers arrested for DUI/DWI are also subject to serious penalties as are commercial drivers, for which North Carolina has a zero-tolerance policy. While all drunk driving arrests are serious in this state, it's still possible to receive the minimum sentence provided offenders prepare in advance and decide if an attorney can help.

Source: North Carolina Department of Public Safety, "Information Concerning Alcohol and Driving While Impaired" Aug. 25, 2014

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