Written by attorney Gregory David Spink

North Carolina DWI Sentencing Laws: Factors Determine Level

If you are found guilty in North Carolina or plead guilty your DWI Level will be determined by factors. The higher your level, the better off you will be.

If I’m found Guilty, will I have to serve jail time?

The answer to this question is it will depend. This is a very complex area of DWI law and the right lawyer can make the difference between an active sentence versus community service. Whether the Judge is required to sentence you to an active jail sentence will depend on what DWI Level you are convicted of or found guilty.


As stated, there are 6 levels of punishment for a DWI, ranging from Aggravated Level 1 (worst level) to Level 5 (best level). After the Judge determines the factors, we will then determine your DWI Level and punishment accordingly. Levels 5, Level 4, or Level 3 will insure no active jail time and allow you a limited driving privilege for 12 months. On the other side, Level 2, Level 1 and Aggravated Level 1 will require an active jail sentence and no ability for a limited driving privilege.

Weighing the Factors

More Mitigating factors than Aggravating factors will allow a Level 5 punishment. When no factors are present or if the factors equal each other, Level 4 punishment will be assessed. When there are more Aggravating factors than Mitigating factors, it will be a Level 3. If there is 1 Grossly Aggravating factor it will be a Level 2. When there are 2 Grossly Aggravating factors it will be a Level 1. When there are 3 or more Grossly Aggravating factors, it will be an Aggravated Level 1.

There are 6 levels of punishment for a North Carolina DWI. The Judge will determine which DWI Level your case is by looking at three general types of factors, there are total of 24 different factors. The three types of factors a Judge looks at are 1) Grossly Aggravating Factors, 2) Aggravating Factors, and 3) Mitigating Factors, our firm focuses its practice on DWIs and the right lawyer can make the difference between jail time or probation.

Mitigating Factors will greatly help your case and will mean a better DWI Level of punishment. Some examples of these factors are getting an alcohol assessment or having a safe driving record.

Grossly Aggravating Factors and Aggravating Factors hurt your case and will mean a stricter DWI Level. Having a very high BAC level, more than 0.15 will be considered an Aggravating Factor. An example of a Grossly Aggravating Factor would be having a prior DWI conviction in the past 7 years or having a child in the car under the age of 18. After the judge determines these factors, the judge will weigh the factors against each other to determine a DWI Level of Punishment, after you hire our firm we obtain evidence to present at trial to Mitigate your sentence and get you the best Level possible.

Additional resources provided by the author

N.C.G.S. 20-179

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