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When does a DWI become a felony in North Carolina?

On Behalf of | Feb 4, 2020 | Dwi |

The drunk driving laws in North Carolina are some of the harshest in the country. A felony DWI conviction requires a mandatory year in prison in addition to fines, legal costs, and the loss of license (potentially permanent). Motorists should know the severity of these penalties before getting behind the wheel after a night out.

Common penalties for a felony DWI

A North Carolina felony DWI conviction can result in:

  • A minimum prison sentence of one year
  • Confiscation and sale of vehicle – if the DWI charges occur with a suspended driver’s license
  • Total and permanent loss of license
  • Fines up to $4000

There are varying levels of DWI

There are five levels of consequences related to a DWI charge (V, IV, III, II, I). Level V is the least severe charge, which rises to Level I, the most severe. A Level I charge can include up to 2 years of prison time and $4000 in fines. There is one elevated level above Level I – Aggravated Level I – which is the most severe penalty in North Carolina and could lead to three years of jail time and $10,000 in fines.

Two factors could cause a DWI to be upgraded to a higher level felony charge:

  1. If the driver is a repeat offender: If the driver has had three prior DWI convictions in the past seven years, that driver will be considered a repeat offender and charged with a felony.
  2. If the accident resulted in death: If the driver kills a bystander, passenger or another motorist, this is an automatic felony charge.

Getting back on one’s feet

A felony DWI is a life-altering charge with many ramifications. It is in the defendant’s best interest to work with a criminal defense lawyer experienced in DWI charges and repeat offense cases. Not only can an attorney ensure that the driver’s rights are protected, but an attorney can also argue for sentencing that fits the crime and helps the defendant get back on their feet.