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The different levels of DUIs in North Carolina

In the state of North Carolina, most cases of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol are classified as misdemeanors. However, there are five misdemeanor levels, all carrying different penalties. Understanding the consequences associated with each level can help defendants be more informed about the options and what will happen in the case of a conviction.

Level I and Level II DUIs are the most serious because they are reserved for repeat offenders -- those who were under the influence in an injury-causing crash or who were driving with children in the car. They are also the only two levels where the judge does not have the ability to suspend the sentence. Level I and Level II carry mandatory sentences that a judge cannot change even if he or she is sympathetic to the defendant. A Level I DUI carries a $4,000 fine and jail time ranging from 30 days to two years. A Level II DUI carries a $2,000 fine and anywhere from seven days to one year in jail.

A conviction for a DUI classified as a Level III, IV or V carries a fine of $1,000, $500 or $200, respectively, and the jail time can be anywhere from 24 hours to six months depending on the level. In these cases, however, the judge does have the ability to suspend the sentence if the defendant agrees to certain terms. For instance, the sentence on a Level V DUI can be suspended if the defendant doesn't drive for 30 days, does 24 hours of community service or spends 24 hours in jail.

In repeat cases, defendants have the possibility of being charged with felony DUI, which carries serious penalties and will be on the defendant's criminal record for life. A strong criminal defense can help increase the chances of the defendant getting a favorable outcome.

Source: North Carolina Department of Public Safety, "Information Concerning Alcohol and Driving While Impaired" accessed Feb. 18, 2015

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