In North Carolina, it is illegal to drive while visibly impaired by alcohol or when someone’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) goes over the legal limit. Driving while impaired (DWI) charges can lead to a variety of penalties after a guilty plea or conviction.
Oftentimes, someone who has been accused of a DWI offense may be a regular drinker. They may enjoy going out on the weekend with friends or may even struggle with a substance abuse disorder. It is quite common for someone accused of one DWI to eventually get arrested again for a similar offense.
The penalties for North Carolina DWIs increase with each offense
Recidivism involves committing the same type of criminal offense more than once. The state tries to deter recidivism by imposing increasing penalties for those accused of repeat offenses. Each DWI charge carries increased penalty risks.
A first DUI charge is usually a misdemeanor. A person can face up to $200 in fines, 60 days in jail, three years of probation and 30 days of license suspension. A second DUI carries between seven days and one year in prison, five years of probation, $2,000 in fines and a year-long driver’s license suspension.
Multiple DWI convictions in a short amount of time could lead to felony charges. In North Carolina, prosecutors can pursue felony habitual DWI charges when someone has four or more DWI-related convictions on their record within 10 years of one another. This charge carries a one-year minimum prison sentence that judges cannot suspend.
Additionally, with each DWI offense, someone increases their chances of aggravating factors worsening their charges or possible penalties. The more frequently someone drives while under the influence, the more likely they are to eventually cause a crash that could harm or kill someone else. Such scenarios could very easily lead to felony charges and enhanced penalties.
Pleading guilty to a DWI doesn’t ensure lenience during sentencing and puts someone at risk of worse penalties if they get arrested again in the future. The possibility of worsening penalties and felony charges may motivate some people to defend themselves more assertively after a first-time DWI arrest. Ultimately, properly responding to DWI charges can decrease the likelihood of worsening penalties and felony charges.