DUI & DWI in North Carolina
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Driving while impaired (DWI) is a serious offense that can have devastating consequences. Driving while you are impaired by alcohol, drugs, or both, can cause injury to you, your passengers, and other motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. It is no wonder, then, that North Carolina has strict laws regarding DWI, which are strongly enforced.
If a law enforcement officer charges you with DWI, you must submit to a chemical test of your breath or blood. A chemical test refusal brings lots of penalties. For example, your license will be immediately revoked for at least 30 days and an additional 12 months by the DMV.
If you agree and your test shows a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more (or 0.04% or more if you were driving a commercial vehicle), it will be admissible as evidence in court.
The law states that you may not drink any alcoholic beverage while driving. Also, you cannot transport an open container of an alcoholic beverage in a vehicle if the driver is drinking or has alcohol in his or her body. You cannot have alcoholic beverages, open or closed, in the passenger area of a commercial vehicle while on any highway, street, or public motoring area. If you are convicted of DWI, the following punishments apply:
A first offense brings:
- A mandatory license revocation for one year.
- A fine up to $2,000; no less than 24 hours of imprisonment (and up to 24 months); 24 hours of community service; 30 days without a limited driving privilege (or any combination of these).
A second offense brings:
- A mandatory license revocation for four years if convicted within three years of first offense.
- A fine up to $1,000 and no less than seven days or more than 12 months of imprisonment. Limited driving privilege will not be issued if the second offense occurs within seven years of the first conviction.
A third offense brings:
- A mandatory permanent driver license revocation if at least one of the prior convictions occurred within the past five years.
- A fine up to $2,000 and no less than 14 days or more than 24 months of imprisonment.
A fourth offense brings:
- A mandatory permanent driver license revocation. Considered a felony if the three prior DWI convictions occurred within the past seven years.
- One to three years of imprisonment and a fine.
One year license revocation for the following underage offenders:
- Under 21 and attempts to purchase or purchase an alcoholic beverage
- Under 21 and aids or abets someone in the purchase of alcohol
- Attempts to use fake driver license or ID to purchase alcoholic beverage
- Anyone who allows underage person to use his or her license to purchase alcohol
- Under 21 and convicted for driving with any amount of alcohol or drugs in his or her body
When your license is restored after a suspension for DWI, or when a limited driving privilege is issued after a DWI conviction, there is a BAC restriction, meaning the law is more strict for you than for everyone else. The first time the license is restored, the alcohol concentration restriction is .04%. The second and/or subsequent times, it is 0.00%―no alcohol allowed in your blood at all.
There is also an ignition interlock device that you may be required to install on your car. That's a device that requires you to take a chemical breath test before starting your car, and at regular intervals while driving. If your BAC is higher than .15% when charged with DWI, you may be ordered to use this device as part of your punishment.
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