In 1983, North Carolina combined all of its alcohol- and drug- related driving laws into a single offense called “Driving While Impaired.” Most DWI stops are alcohol-related.
The legal limit for individuals over the age of 21 is a BAC of 0.08%. For commercial vehicle operators, it’s 0.04%. If you already have a DWI on your record, the legal limit is 0.04%. Drivers under the age of 21 must blow a 0.0% – any alcohol concentration is enough for a DWI if you’re under the drinking age.
North Carolina’s DWI laws prohibit purchasing or providing alcohol for someone under the age of 21 or lending your ID to a minor. They also prohibit having an open alcohol container in the vehicle if the driver has been drinking; commercial vehicles can have neither open nor closed containers.
See also: DWI Breath Tests: Know Your Rights
If you’re convicted of a DWI and you’re under the age of 21, you’ll lose your North Carolina driving privileges for 13 months. You’ll have a trial, which means you’ll be responsible for attorney’s fees and court costs. You may be required to pay fines or do community service.
DWI penalties for drivers over the age of 21 are divided into 5 severity levels, with 5 being the least serious. Your level will depend on your driving record, your BAC when you received the DWI, and other circumstances surrounding DWI.
Under Level 5 you’ll spend 1 – 60 days in jail (you may be required to do community service in lieu of imprisonment) and you may be fined up to $200. Under Level 4, you’ll spend 2 – 120 days in jail and pay a fine of up to $500. Level 3 has the same restrictions as Levels 4 and 5, with a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail stint of 3 days – 6 months. Level 2 bumps the fine to up to $2,000 with jail time of 1 week – 1 year. Level 1 carries a fine of up to $4,000 and jail time of 1 month – 2 years. The most severe level is called “Aggravated Level 1” and includes a fine of up to $10,000 with 1 – 3 years of jail time. At any level, you may be required to participate in a substance abuse program.
For your first conviction, your driving privileges will be suspended for a year. For your second conviction, you’ll lose your privileges for 4 years. For your third conviction, your driving privileges are permanently revoked. Your license will also be suspended if you refuse to give a Breathalyzer or blood test. A judge may decide to shorten or lengthen the suspension or allow you limited driving privileges depending on the circumstances surrounding your DWI. In order to reinstate your driving privileges, you’ll have to reapply at the North Carolina DMV and pay a $100 restoration fee and a $50 service fee. If you get another DWI while driving with a suspended or revoked license, the state has the right to seize and sell your car.
The States Share License Information
The states share information about traffic violations and license suspensions through a national registry called the “Driver License Compact” (DLC). All of the above penalties are effective in North Carolina and affect your North Carolina driving privileges. However, North Carolina will report the DWI conviction to your home state through the DLC. Your home state’s laws may differ from North Carolina’s and your license may not be suspended or revoked. If that’s the case, you simply won’t be able to drive in North Carolina for the duration of the suspension unless you’re granted a limited driving privilege. Similarly, a DWI conviction in another state will result in suspension of your driving privileges in North Carolina.
You won’t be able to renew your license in any state if your North Carolina driving privileges are still suspended. Most states won’t let you renew your license or get a new license if there are any outstanding holds or suspensions in any state.
The Bottom Line
A DWI is serious business. In North Carolina, you’ll lose your driving privileges for at least a year. Your own home state’s laws and regulations may be more or less severe, so you may face even more serious penalties or you may be able to continue driving outside of North Carolina. All states have increasingly severe penalties for multiple DWIs; if you’re convicted, make sure it’s the last time you ever drive under the influence.
If you’ve been charged with a DWI in North Carolina, reach out to one of SeiferFlatow’s an experienced attorney for a free consultation. We can help make sure you get a fair trial and we can work with you and the court to minimize any penalties.