DWI Sentencing Factors | Charlotte DUI Attorney

Charlotte DWI Sentencing Factors

When we first speak with someone charged with a Charlotte DWI, their immediate concern is “how can I get a license to drive?” They need to be able to get to work or school. They may have children or older parents to care for. Driving is essential in a mobile society. We first help by getting a limited driving privilege for you. The next critical concern is “what am I facing?” and “will I go to jail?” These are also very real concerns. Here is the good news. Unless you have a prior DWI conviction in the past seven (7) years, are arrested subsequently for another DWI, or seriously injure or kill someone, the vast majority of those persons charged with DWI do NOT serve jail time as part of their penalty if convicted or plead guilty. For most convictions, the penalties include a fine and court costs, community service, loss of license for one (1) year, completion of recommended alcohol treatment, and significantly higher insurance rates. We explain the DWI sentencing factors and how they are used by judges to assess punishment below:

There are currently 6 levels of punishment available for conviction of a North Carolina DWI. Aggravated Level One is the highest and carries mandatory jail time. Level Five is the lowest and can result in a fine and community service. The Judge will determine which DWI Level to impose by evaluating three categories of factors. There are a total of 24 different factors. The three sets of factors a Judge considers are (1) Grossly Aggravating Factors, and/or (2) Aggravating Factors, against (3) Mitigating Factors.

As one would expect, Grossly Aggravating and Aggravating Factors damage your case and will result in a harsher punishment Level. Examples of “Grossly Aggravating” Factors include having a prior DWI conviction within the past 7 years or having a child in the car under the age of 18 at the time of driving. Having a BAC level greater than 0.15, and dangerous or unsafe driving (an accident without injury) are examples of “Aggravating Factors.” Balancing against these factors, a judges will consider “mitigating factors” which help your case and can result in a lighter DWI Level of punishment. Some examples of these factors include having a safe driving record and/or getting an alcohol assessment (which is already necessary to get in order to apply for a limited driving privilege).

Here is a quick reference summary of NC DWI Sentencing Factors for review:

“Grossly aggravating” factors – any one (1) – Level 2 sentence; any two (2) – Level 1 sentence; any three (3) – new Aggravated Level 1:

  • prior DWI conviction within past seven (7) years;
  • a new DWI while license is suspended from a previous DWI;
  • serious bodily injury as a result of the DWI;
  • child under age 18 in vehicle at time of DWI.

“Aggravating” factors:

  • BAC level of .15 or greater;
  • reckless driving or accident;
  • driver’s license already revoked;
  • prior convictions for DWI greater than seven (7) years;
  • speeding while fleeing arrest;
  • speeding in excess of 30 MPH over posted limit;
  • passing a school bus illegally.

“Mitigating” factors:

  • only slight impairment and blood test not available;
  • statutorily safe driving record;
  • BAC level not greater than 0.09%;
  • otherwise driving lawfully at time of arrest;
  • impairment resulting from prescribed medication at proper dosage;
  • voluntary submission to mental health facility for evaluation.

Part of our job in evaluating each individual case is to determine and prepare for this analysis by the Court. Our first objective is always to determine if there is some legal error which can be argued to have evidence suppressed or your charges even dismissed. If this is not a viable option, we then look for ways to try and minimize your punishment. We may suggest additional alcohol or drug treatment programs. We may invite you to speak to the Court and express remorse and take responsibility for your actions at time of plea. At all times, however, you are in charge of your case. We are here to advise you and present options. Our lawyers will give you the benefit of their experience to make recommendations and courses of action. You will then make the final decision based on our counsel.

For more information and to answer your questions, you can call Charlotte DWI attorney Robert J. Reeves directly on his mobile phone at 704-351-7979 or email robert@rjrlaw.com. We welcome the opportunity to assist you in this difficult time in your life.