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North Carolina DWI Statistics [2024 Updated]

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

Whether you’re a resident or visitor to our great state, it may be beneficial to familiarize yourself with North Carolina DWI statistics. Understanding how frequently DUI arrests occur and how impaired driving can impact car accident statistics may help you be a better defensive driver while traveling on the roads.

What Is a DWI Charge in North Carolina?

Any driver who is discovered to be operating their motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, specifically to a level beyond the legal limit (0.08 or above), can be arrested for a DWI. This is also true if the driver is suspected of driving while under the influence of an illicit drug or medication, including prescription medications that should not be taken while driving.

The charges will vary in severity depending on the factors present during the arrest. Factors that can impact the severity of the charge include:

  • If the offender has prior DWI convictions
  • The driver’s blood alcohol content
  • If an accident was caused that resulted in any injuries or fatalities

If convicted, the defendant can potentially face substantially higher insurance rates, the installation of an ignition interlock device in their car, completion of substance abuse education, having their license suspended, paying heavy fines, or even jail time. If you have been accused of driving drunk or while under the influence of substances, a capable DWI defense attorney will be a valuable resource to have as your case progresses.

Drunk Driving in North Carolina Statistics

According to data from one 2019 study, over 11,000 individuals were arrested in North Carolina for driving under the influence. Nearly 24 percent of all fatalities in the state involved drunk driving, and in particular, 18 percent of deaths of individuals under age 21 involved drunk drivers who were under the legal drinking age.

Sixty-nine percent of all traffic fatalities involving alcohol impairment showed that the incapacitated driver had a BAC of 0.15 or more, and 75 percent of those fatal drunk driving crashes involved motorists with previous charges of driving under the influence and/or similar offenses.

2019 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that of all fatal traffic incidents across the country, 19 percent were alcohol-related, and 15 percent of those fatal drunk driving incidents reported minors under 21 as the driver.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), DUI-related deaths have increased 31 percent since 2019, and roughly 31% of all fatalities from traffic incidents in the US involve drunk drivers. It is believed that every 2 out of 3 people will be impacted by impaired driving at some point in their lifetime.

Is a DWI Attorney Worth the Costs in NC?

You are not required to hire a criminal defense lawyer for your DWI charges, but doing so can greatly increase your chances of getting the most favorable outcome possible for your circumstances– including potentially reducing the charges or penalties against you and perhaps getting the charges dismissed entirely. An attorney who is educated and familiar with the law will ensure your rights are respected by utilizing competent negotiation and litigation skills.

Criminal defense lawyers are also experienced in investigation, collecting evidence to build a strong defense tailored to the defense strategies that will be most applicable to the circumstances. Consulting with an attorney about how much your case would cost is the most accurate way of getting an estimate. Lawyer fees will somewhat depend on the law firm you go to since the attorney’s experience and success rate typically impact their rate.

However, the factor that has the greatest impact on what you should expect to pay in legal fees is how serious or complicated the details of your case are. This is because the complexity of your situation directly affects how much time, resources, and work is needed to prepare for the case beforehand, as well as how many appearances in court are required to resolve the matter.


Q: Is It Possible to Get DWI Charges Reduced in North Carolina?

A: North Carolina doesn’t allow DWIs to be reduced to lesser charges, such as reckless driving, as some other states do. While it’s impossible for the DWI charge to be reduced to a different charge, your attorney may be able to get the DWI level and subsequent punishment of the charges against you reduced. This may be done by disproving the presence of aggravating factors in your traffic violation or questioning the validity of the traffic stop.

Q: How Long Does a DWI Stay on Your Record in NC?

A: A DWI conviction in North Carolina will stay on your criminal record indefinitely. There is, however, a lookback period for these crimes. Your conviction is less likely to be taken into consideration by the court in the event of a future crime after this time period has passed. It is important to note, however, that the arrest and conviction won’t disappear from your record after the look-back period has ended.

Q: Can I Get a DWI Dismissed in NC?

A: It is possible for a DWI to be dismissed in North Carolina. However, this is not a common occurrence, and the reason for dismissal is not always that there was a strong defense. Sometimes, a DWI offense is dismissed simply due to the amount of time that’s passed since the incident. Other times, the criminal defense lawyer is able to prove pre-trial that there is insufficient evidence or a violation of rights that renders the charges moot.

Q: Does a DWI Show Up on a Background Check in NC?

A: Yes, a DWI conviction will show up any time someone conducts a background check on you in North Carolina. The length of the lookback period will depend on whether you were charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, as the felony lookback period is longer. Though a background check can go back further than the lookback period, it is not common to do so.

Don’t Accept Your DWI Charge, a Qualified Defense Attorney Can Help

Legal professionals at The Law Firm of Brent D. Ratchford have assisted numerous clients facing drunk driving violations, helping them get the charges lowered and even dismissed. Contact our office today so a skilled lawyer can begin working on your defense case.