Is Drunk Driving a Felony?

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A drunk driver on a North Carolina road is pictured before getting a felony.

Most offenses for drinking and driving, otherwise known as a DWI, are classified as a misdemeanor offense in North Carolina. A DWI in North Carolina often comes with jail time, fines, and a suspension of the convicted driver’s license. However, under certain circumstances, those caught driving while under the influence in North Carolina may be charged with a felony DWI, which is much more severe. If you have been involved in a drunk-driving-related car accident, do not hesitate to contact the drunk-driving car accident attorneys, Tatum & Atkinson, ‘the Heavy Hitters,’ today to see what we can do for you. Contact us today by calling us at (800) 529-0804 or contacting us online.

Drinking and Driving

If a driver is found operating a vehicle with a BAC (blood alcohol content) of 0.08% or higher, they will be charged with a DWI in the state of North Carolina. However, minors will be charged with a DWI if any trace of alcohol is found in their system while driving.

North Carolina Drunk Driving Felony

While most DWIs in North Carolina will be classified as a misdemeanor, there are two occasions in which a DWI can be charged as a felony:

Repeat DWI Offenses

If you have been convicted of 3 or more DWI in the past ten years in North Carolina, any new DWIs may be classified as felonies. This includes any offenses while still a minor or any drug-related offenses. Repeated DWI offenses will lead to a class F felony if charged, punishable by up to 41 months in prison.

Drunk Driving Fatalities

If you killed someone in an accident while driving drunk, you could be charged with a class B2 or D felony, which is punishable by up to 393 months in prison.

Consequences of Getting Arrested for a DWI

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can lead to severe consequences. Penalties may include

  • Community service
  • Fines
  • Higher car insurance premiums
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device
  • Mandatory jail time
  • Suspension of driver’s license

What is the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI in North Carolina?

Unfortunately, alcohol abuse is rising in North Carolina, leading to an uprising of DWIs. In the state of North Carolina, there is no distinction between a DUI and a DWI, and all charges will be filed at DUI. While other states may distinguish between driving a vehicle on hard drugs from alcohol, North Carolina treats driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol as the same thing.

What Happens When You Get Arrested for Drunk Driving?

If you get arrested for a DWI in North Carolina, the following events will likely occur:

1. You Will Be Arrested & Charged

If an officer has stopped you for suspicion of driving while intoxicated, or in the alternative, if you have been involved in an accident after drunk driving, officers will ask you to complete a breathalyzer or field sobriety test. If you are found to be driving while intoxicated, you will be arrested and taken to the nearest police station in a police car. At the police station, you will have your biometrics (photograph and fingerprints) taken during booking, after which you will be taken to a holding cell. In some circumstances, you may be able to leave the booking cell after bail has been paid and you are transported home. During this phase, you may spend up to 24 hours in a cell.

2. Receiving a Summons

After being charged with a DWI in North Carolina, you will receive a court summons detailing when and where you will need to appear in court. When you appear in court on your court date, you will have your DWI charges read to you, and you will be able to either plead not guilty or guilty. During this court appearance, if found guilty, you will be issued a fine and sentenced if the circumstances surrounding your DWI require it. It is often advisable to plead guilty, as this may lead to reduced sentencing as opposed to if the accused pleads non-guilty and is found guilty by the court.

3. Revocation of Your License

You can expect to have your license revoked if you are arrested and convicted of a DWI in North Carolina. Your license may be suspended from 30 days to 1 year. In some cases, drug and alcohol assessment and treatment may be required to reinstate your license. In North Carolina, drivers face two types of license revocation: civil suspension and criminal suspension.

4. Criminal Charges and Fines

When convicted of a DWI in North Carolina for a first-time charge, you may face a minimum jail sentence of 24 hours. However, in some circumstances, the court can suspend these sentences. Typically, those convicted of a first-time DWI will spend 24 hours to 6 months in jail, depending on the arrest’s circumstances. In addition to jail time, you can expect to pay a fine according to the misdemeanor scale. With a first-time DWI, you can expect to pay between $200 to $1,000, depending on the misdemeanor level. If your jail sentence is suspended, a judge can order that you serve a term of probation rather than jail time. In addition to jail time and fines, you may be ordered to participate in a drug and alcohol program or be required to serve community service.

The Severity of DWI Punishment

Fines and criminal charges given to an individual convicted of DWI will vary depending on the circumstances surrounding the arrest. Penalties will vary depending on specific aspects, such as the age of the offender or how many times the offender has been charged with a DWI. Additionally, penalties for DWI may become more severe if:

  • The convicted was driving recklessly
  • The convicted was driving with a revoked license
  • The convicted has a blood alcohol content above 0.15
  • The convicted drove with a minor in the car
  • The convicted injured another while driving under the influence
  • The convicted had a previous DWI conviction within seven years
  • The convicted overtook a stopped school bus

Conversely, some circumstances may reduce DWI conviction penalties, such as:

  • The convicted volunteers to complete drug and alcohol treatment
  • The convicted volunteers to check in at a mental health facility
  • The convicted had a safe driving record before the DWI offense

Drunk Driving Accident Attorney in North Carolina

Driving while drunk in North Carolina is a serious offense that endangers the one driving while under the influence and everyone else on the road. When convicted of a DWI, the convicted will likely spend some time in jail, be required to pay a fine, and have their license revoked. Unfortunately, driving while under the influence is a leading cause of car accident injuries.

If you have been involved in a drunk-driving-related car accident, do not hesitate to contact the drunk-driving car accident attorneys, Tatum & Atkinson, ‘the Heavy Hitters,’ today to see what we can do for you. You will receive a free, no-obligation case evaluation with one of our experienced accident injury attorneys to discuss what your legal options are and what steps to take next. Here at Tatum & Atkinson, the ‘Heavy Hitters’, we accept accident injury cases on a contingency fee basis. This means you will never have to pay attorneys fees out of pocket, and we will not get paid unless you win. Contact us today by calling us at (800) 529-0804 or contacting us online to receive your free case evaluation to see what we can do to help you.