Like in most places, it is illegal to drive a vehicle when you’re impaired in North Carolina. You cannot drive legally if your blood alcohol concentration is .08% or higher, and you cannot drive legally if you are impaired by drugs (legal or not). Commercial drivers may not drive with a BAC of .04% or higher.

There are five levels of penalties for those who are convicted of driving drunk or impaired. Level V is the least serious, while a Level I charge is the most significant and carries the stiffest penalties.

First-time offenders are most likely to face level V charges and penalties. These may include jail time of up to 60 days and fines of up to $200. A judge does have the right to suspend the sentence, but the driver will need to complete at least 24 hours in jail, not operate a vehicle for 30 days and perform 24 hours of community service.

Someone who has a history of DWIs could face harsher penalties. Habitual offenders are more likely to face felony charges. Drivers who have had three or more DWI convictions within the last seven years face felony charges and may be required to go to prison for at least a year. Offenders may also be required to attend a substance abuse program as a condition of parole or during their stay in jail.

As you can see, the penalties for a DWI vary greatly depending on the specific factors of your case. If you’re accused of driving while intoxicated, it’s a wise choice to talk to your attorney about defensive options and how to minimize the penalties you face.