First Offense DWI

If a person is convicted of their first DWI in North Carolina, there are usually three different levels of punishment that they could face. They are categorized in descending order of seriousness and are determined during a sentencing hearing following the trial. There are some circumstances where a person’s first DWI conviction can carry very severe punishments; for instance, where there was a child or handicapped person in the car during the stop or the driver caused an accident where someone else was seriously injured. A discussion of the possible punishments for those types of circumstances can be found here.

The vast majority of first offense DWI punishments in North Carolina will fall into one of the three categories listed below:

Level 5 DWI in North Carolina

A Level 5 DWI punishment is considered the most lenient. For someone to be punished as a Level 5 DWI, a judge must not find any grossly aggravating factors and must determine that the mitigating factors substantially outweigh the aggravating factors. A fine of up to $200 may be assessed, and a person can be sentenced to a maximum term of 60 days in jail. The term of imprisonment may be suspended but must include conditions that the person:

1. Be imprisoned for a term of at least 24 hours; or
2. Perform 24 hours of community service; and
3. Obtain a substance abuse assessment and the education or treatment required for the restoration of a driver’s license.

What You Need To Know About Being Convicted of a Level 5 DWI in Raleigh and Wake County

The vast majority of DWI sentences in Raleigh and Wake County are determined to be at Level 5. If someone is being convicted of their first DWI offense and they were not involved in a serious accident, this is the most likely level of punishment. In order to insure that someone receives the lowest punishment available, it is important that they are able to present mitigating factors to the sentencing judge. These include completing a substance abuse assessment before trial, having a safe driving record over the last few years, and having been polite and cooperative with the officer in the case.

Generally, a person found guilty of a first offense DWI in Raleigh and Wake County will be placed on unsupervised probation, be made to complete 24 hours of community service, and have court costs and fines assessed. The person will lose their driver’s license for one year, but they are also likely eligible to be issued a limited driving privilege for that time period. Each case is different, and there may be other conditions applied depending on specific facts.

Level 4 DWI in North Carolina

A Level 4 DWI punishment is slightly more severe than Level 5. This level arises where the judge determines that the mitigating factors are balanced by aggravating factors. There still can be no grossly aggravating factors present. A person subject to this level of punishment can be fined up to $500 and may be sentenced to a maximum term of 120 days in jail. The term of imprisonment may be suspended but must include conditions that the person:

1. Be imprisoned for a term of at least 48 hours; or
2. Perform 48 hours of community service; and
3. Obtain a substance abuse assessment and the education or treatment required for the restoration of a driver’s license.

Level 3 DWI in North Carolina

A Level 3 DWI punishment is more severe than a Level 4 but is also the rarest level in impaired driving judgements. A Level 3 DWI punishment arises when a judge finds that the aggravating factors substantially outweigh any mitigating factors. There still can be no grossly aggravating factors present. A person subject to this level of punishment may be fined up to $1,000 and may be sentenced to a maximum term of six months in jail. The term of imprisonment may be suspended but must include conditions that the person:

1. Be imprisoned for a term of at least 72 hours; or
2. Perform 72 hours of community service; and
3. Obtain a substance abuse assessment and the education or treatment required for the restoration of a driver’s license.

Unless there are grossly aggravating factors present, all first offense DWI judgements in North Carolina will fall into one of these three punishment levels. An overview of grossly aggravating factors, aggravating factors, and mitigating factors can be found here.

Steven Saad is a Raleigh and Wake County criminal defense attorney with years of legal experience as both a defender of the accused and a former Wake County prosecutor. He is passionate about representing the people of his community that are accused of crimes and have unfortunately found themselves in our criminal system. Obtaining the best possible results in his clients’ cases is Steven’s only motivation.

During his years as a Wake County District Attorney, Steven prosecuted tens of thousands of criminal cases, giving him unparalleled insight into the criminal court process in Wake County. He thrives on the fact that a case can be won or lost in the smallest details, making preparation and communication with clients throughout a case critical.

Don’t waste an opportunity to discuss your case with an experienced and effective defense attorney and former Wake County prosecutor. Contact us today.