Is DUI a Felony in North Carolina? 2024

In 2019 alone, there were 323 total alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in North Carolina, comprising 23.5% of the total driving fatalities in the state, and more than 11,000 people were arrested for driving under the influence. It is unsurprising that North Carolina has strict DUI laws and penalties aimed at keeping those under the influence out of vehicles and off the roads. Different factors will affect the severity of your DUI and how you are charged, but a DUI is considered a misdemeanor under most circumstances. There are, however, situations where you can be charged with a felony DUI. How you are charged will have a direct impact on your potential penalties.

For any case involving a DUI, it is critical to hire a DUI Attorney in Statesville, NC, immediately to secure your legal options.

DWI Sentencing Levels

There are six levels of DWI sentencing, with their severity depending on the mitigating and aggravating factors of the case.

Mitigating factors can reduce the penalty of a DUI, but it is the burden of the defendant to show that they have met any of these conditions:

  • A previously safe driving record
  • Lawful driving aside from the impairment
  • Minor impairment with a BAC of no more than 0.09%
  • Impairment that was caused by a prescription drug taken as directed
  • Voluntary submission to mental health assessment, abuse assessment, and participation in treatment

Aggravating factors may increase DUI penalties, especially if multiple factors are present.

  • Reckless and dangerous driving
  • BAC of 0.15% or greater
  • Causing an accident
  • One or more impaired driving offenses within the last seven years
  • Two or more traffic violations in the last five years

Some aggravating factors, called grossly aggravating factors, are especially severe.

  • Causing serious injury or death to another person
  • Having a minor, a physically disabled person that cannot leave without aid, or a person with the mental development of a minor in the vehicle at the time of the DUI
  • Getting arrested while on probation or while your license is revoked due to a prior DUI conviction

The sentencing level that you are charged with depends on the number and severity of the aggravating factors as well as the presence of any mitigating factors. The possible sentencing levels, from least severe to most severe, are:

  • Level 5
    The mitigating factors significantly outweigh any aggravating factors. Penalties include a maximum fine of up to $200 and between 24 hours and 120 days in jail.
  • Level 4
    The mitigating factors slightly outnumber the aggravating factors. Penalties include a maximum fine of up to $500 and between 48 hours and 120 days in jail.
  • Level 3
    The aggravating factors slightly outweigh the mitigating factors. Penalties include a maximum fine of $1,000 and between 72 hours and six months in jail.

For levels three through five, there are no grossly aggravating factors present. The judge determines how the aggravating and mitigating factors compare with each other.

  • Level 2
    There is one grossly aggravating factor present, and the penalties include fines of up to $2,000 and between seven days and 12 months in jail. The minimum jail sentence can be avoided if the defendant agrees to 90 days of monitored sobriety.
  • Level 1
    There are two grossly aggravating factors present, or a minor was in the vehicle. The potential penalties include a fine of up to $4,000 and between 30 days and 24 months in jail. If the defendant is granted probation, they must spend a minimum of 10 days in jail.
  • Aggravated Level 1
    There are three or more grossly aggravating factors present. The penalties include a maximum fine of $10,000 and between 12 and 36 months in prison. If probation is granted, the defendant must still spend a minimum of 120 days in jail.

Felony DUI Charges

DWIs in North Carolina are considered wobblers, meaning that they can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies. In most circumstances, a DWI will be a misdemeanor, but the likelihood of being charged with a felony increases as the DWI charge level severity increases.

FAQs About DUI & Felony in North Carolina

What Is the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI?

DUI stands for driving under the influence, while DWI stands for driving while impaired. There is currently no difference between a DUI and a DWI under North Carolina law. This changed in 1983 as a response to the passing of North Carolina’s Safe Roads Act, a law that made both offenses fall under a DWI. Regardless of what caused your impairment while driving, including alcohol, the official charge will be a DWI.

Can I Get the DUI Charge Level Reduced?

It is not possible to have the DUI level that you are charged with reduced. Once the level has been determined, it is impossible to negotiate for a charge reduction. There is, however, a potential for a plea bargain if you are charged with multiple offenses. You may also be able to get the minimum penalties for the level that you have been charged with. A criminal defense attorney may find routes for a plea bargain or penalty reduction.

Can I Get a DUI Charge Dismissed?

It is unlikely to have a DUI charge dismissed early in the process, as prosecutors tend to aggressively pursue these offenses. Your most likely route to have the charges dismissed or reduced is to work with an experienced DUI attorney who can examine your case and find issues that may allow for a dismissal, such as a traffic stop without probable cause or an incorrectly administered chemical test.

What Is the Implied Consent Law in North Carolina?

When you choose to operate a vehicle in North Carolina, you are subject to implied consent laws. These laws state that you will consent to a chemical test if you are arrested for a DUI. If you are lawfully arrested, the police can request that you take a blood, breath, or urine chemical test. Refusal to take the test can result in additional penalties, such as license revocation for 12 months.

Speak With an Attorney

The Lassiter & Lassiter team understands how serious a DUI conviction can be, especially if you are facing felony charges. A felony conviction can have lifelong effects that cause negative impacts, even if you make different choices and never get arrested again. Reach out to the Lassiter & Lassiter team today for a consultation on your DUI arrest.

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Call our office at 704-873-2295 or email us today.

Attorney Mike Lassiter grew up in Statesville, makes his living serving the people of Statesville and published a book capturing the changing landscape of small town life across North Carolina and Iredell County. His keen sense of history, dedication to the area and 30 years of legal experience make him an ideal attorney for your legal needs.

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