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North Carolina DUI / DWI Laws and Penalties 2024

On Behalf of The Law Firm of Brent D. Ratchford |

Facing criminal charges is often a difficult and stressful reality. Navigating the legal system on your own is overwhelming and often futile. DUI charges can be particularly difficult because they carry such heavy penalties at every level. The experienced team at The Law Firm of Brent D. Ratchford can work to ensure that you have the most aggressive representation.

What Is a DUI?

North Carolina has very strict laws in place when it comes to operating a vehicle with any sort of impairment. If you are pulled over and then charged with a DUI, which means Driving Under the Influence, then that means you were driving or operating some type of vehicle unsafely.

There are several factors that determine whether to charge an individual with a DUI in North Carolina. The three primary indicators that law enforcement officers use to determine whether an individual was driving while impaired are:

  • The individual is operating a vehicle while under the influence of any substance.
  • The individual has a blood alcohol content of 0.08%, or 0.04% if they are operating a commercial vehicle.
  • The individual has any controlled substance in their system.

If at least one of these is true, then law enforcement will have grounds to arrest and charge the person operating the vehicle. This could pose unique challenges for drivers in North Carolina because the DUI laws are quite strict.

North Carolina DUI Laws

The DUI laws in North Carolina are some of the most extensive in the country. According to North Carolina law, you are considered under the influence if you have ingested any substance that impacts your regular motor function. From a driving standpoint, they view DUI as an individual who has full physical control of a vehicle while impaired. If you are caught driving under the influence and convicted, there are very harsh penalties.

North Carolina DUI Penalties

There are five total levels of DUI penalties in North Carolina, ranging from the least severe to the strictest. Each penalty will likely carry a fine and some time in jail. The severity of the DUI incident, and whether an individual has previous DUI convictions, will be key factors in determining which penalty level they reach.

Reducing a DUI Charge

Due to the strict nature of North Carolina’s DUI laws, it can be very difficult to get a DUI charge reduced. Several states include a lesser charge, like reckless driving, alongside a DUI charge. This can assist in reducing the DUI charge to one with fewer penalties. This is not the case in North Carolina.

There is no lesser charge in a North Carolina DUI case, so it cannot be reduced any further. There is a possibility, however, that the case could be dismissed if anything was handled incorrectly by the police officers. If there was no probable cause to stop your car, search your vehicle, or arrest you, then your attorney may make a case that the officers violated your constitutional rights so that the case will be dismissed. Outside of those very specific circumstances, however, it can be difficult to avoid a DUI charge if you are arrested while under the influence.

FAQs About North Carolina DUI Laws and Penalties

How likely is jail time for a first DUI in North Carolina?

The penalties for a DUI conviction in North Carolina depend on the severity of the offense. If your first DUI was serious, you could face jail time. However, many first-time offenders do not have other aggravating factors that play into their conviction, so the risk of spending time in jail is lower. The lowest level of DUI, level 5, carries a possible penalty of between 24 hours and 60 days in jail. If you are a first-time offender, you may be able to avoid jail time by completing community service.

What can a DUI be reduced to in North Carolina?

North Carolina has very strict laws in place when it comes to any kind of impaired driving. Some states include a lesser charge when DUI charges are involved, such as reckless driving, so there is a possibility that a DUI charge may be reduced. There is no lesser offense included when an individual is facing DUI charges in North Carolina, however. This means that there is often no way to reduce a DUI to a lesser charge. Also, if you are convicted of a DUI in North Carolina, there is no way for that charge to be dismissed or removed from your record.

What is the penalty for a DUI in North Carolina?

There are various penalties that can be handed down for a DUI in North Carolina. The penalty is often determined by how severe the incident was and whether the individual has prior DUI convictions. Each level of penalty will likely include a fine and jail time. Penalties get more severe if an individual has multiple DUI convictions and may include a license being revoked, regular drug or alcohol testing, and probation.

How do you get a DUI dismissed in North Carolina?

It is difficult to get a DUI charge dismissed in North Carolina, but not impossible. The primary reason your DUI case may be dismissed is if the police officers involved made a mistake. If you have been charged with a DUI in North Carolina, there are several key factors that your attorney should investigate, such as why your vehicle was stopped, if the officers had probable cause to stop and arrest you, and if your constitutional rights were violated. If any of those things were handled poorly, your case may be dismissed.

Contact The Law Firm of Brent D. Ratchford

Facing criminal charges can be stressful and overwhelming. DUI charges in particular can have an extremely negative impact on an individual’s life and future. If you or a loved one has been charged with a DUI in North Carolina, you will need an experienced DWI attorney to help you navigate the legal system. Contact The Law Firm of Brent D. Ratchford today if you need assistance dealing with a North Carolina DUI conviction.