Legal Limit: North Carolina prohibits driving while intoxicated, which is defined as driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or driving under the influence of an impairing substance. In a commercial vehicle, the legal limit is a blood alcohol concentration of .04.
North Carolina has a very complex statutory scheme for drunk driving penalties. The statute proscribes certain mitigating, aggravating, and grossly aggravating factors that the judge should weigh in determining the appropriate sanction. First time offenders start with Level Four Penalties and their punishment will go up or down based on the factors.
Mitigating Factors include: only slight impairment (no higher than .09 BAC); driving was safe at the time of arrest, the drivers impairment notwithstanding; and a safe driving record.
Aggravating Factors include: gross impairment (BAC greater than .16), dangerous or reckless driving at time of arrest, driving under revoked license, speeding while fleeing the police, driving more than 30 mph over the speed limit.
Grossly Aggravating Factors include: prior conviction for DWI in the last seven years, drivers impairment caused serious injury to another person, driver had a minor (under 16) in the car at the time of impairment, drivers license had been revoked for a prior DWI conviction.
Level One Penalty: Imposed if two or more grossly aggravating factors exist. Fine of up to $4,000 and imprisonment for no less than 30 days and no more than 24 months.
Level Two Penalty: Imposed if only one grossly aggravating factor exists. Fine of up to $2,000 and imprisonment for no less than 7 days and no more than 12 months.
Level Three Penalty: Fine of up to $1,000 and imprisonment for no less than 72 hours and no more than 6 months.
Level Four Penalty: Fine of up to $500 and imprisonment for no less than 48 hours and no more than 120 days.
Level Five Penalty: Fine of up to $200 and imprisonment for no less than 24 hours and no more than 60 days.
Driver is Under 21: Driving under 21 with any alcohol in your body is punishable as a class 2 misdemeanor. Class 2 misdemeanors carries jail time of no less than 30 days and no more than 6 months.
Habitual Drunk Driving: North Carolina defines habitual drunk drivers as those who have three or more convictions in the span of seven years. This is punishable as a Class F felony, which results in no less than 12 months of jail time and the permanent revocation of the defendant’s license.