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Every criminal offense is unique, and North Carolina has a relatively comprehensive approach to driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses to reflect this complex reality. A variety of factors will influence what charges a driver faces if they get arrested for driving under the influence in North Carolina.

There are technically five different levels of DWI charges, with Level I being the most serious and Level V being the least serious. The level of your charges will impact the penalties you could face.

Levels V through III are lower-level DWI charges

Many people facing a first-time DWI charge will be charged with a Level V offense that carries a $200 fine and up to 60 days in jail. Those who face a Level IV charge could face a maximum fine of $500 and up to 120 days in jail. Level III charges carry fines of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail. License suspension and community service are also possible with all three of these levels of charges.

Levels I and II are for special circumstances

Many people who face Level I or Level II charges in North Carolina have previous DWI charges on their record. Other aggravating factors can lead to Level I or Level II charges, such as driving on a suspended license, those accused of a DWI with children in the car or those who cause a crash that injures someone.

A Level II charge can mean up to a $2,000 fine and possibly a year in jail. A Level I charge can mean up to $4,000 in fines and possibly two years in jail. If you face any DWI charge, getting legal help early on can make it easier for you to have a defense strategy that’s best for your situation.