Drunk driving – driving while impaired (DWI) – is a serious charge and can result in the immediate suspension of your driver’s license. North Carolina handles DWI charges stringently because driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can result in life-changing injuries or death. All DWI violators will appear in front of a judge. Talking with a DUI attorney as early in the process a possible, can help you understand NC’s DWI laws and your offense. Our experience may also be able to help you receive minimum penalties and could negotiate driving privileges and penalty alternatives.
NC DWI Laws
The state’s Safe Roads Act of 1983 rolled all alcohol and drug-related driving charges under a single offense called “driving while impaired” or DWI. Blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) are used to determine is a driver is impaired over the legal limit.
The NC DWI law does the following:
Revokes a driver’s license for 30 days for anyone upon refusal of an alcohol or drug test or who has a 0.08 BAC (0.01 BAC if under 21 years old).
Allows an officer to seize your vehicle and forfeit all driving privileges for someone who is impaired and whose license is currently revoked for a DWI or who is impaired and has no license or insurance.
Creates a “zero tolerance” law for underage drinkers and drivers of commercial vehicles, school buses and day car vehicles.
Imposes a $10,000 maximum fine for DWI offenses
Blood Alcohol Concentration
Measuring a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level is the most common way NC law enforcement officers determine if you’re legally impaired. Officers may also evaluate your physical and mental state as an indication of impairment by alcohol, drugs or both.
21 years old or older: 0.08%
Commercial drivers (CDL): 0.04%
Younger than 21 years old: Any alcohol concentration to be charged with Driving After Consuming Under Age of 21. For DWI, 0.08%.
Prior DWI conviction: 0.04% *
* If you have had a prior DWI conviction and your license has been reinstated, you must adhere to the lower BAC standard. You can’t drive if you have a BAC of 0.04% or higher. This rule, however, can depend on your driving record and whether you were charged and convicted after July 1, 2001.
Other Alcohol and Drug Offenses and Penalties
The NC DWI laws also prohibit:
An open container in the vehicle if the driver is or has been consuming alcohol
An open or closed container in the passenger area of a commercial motor vehicle
Helping someone younger than 21 years old obtain alcohol. This includes buying or giving alcohol as well as lending an ID so they can buy alcohol.
Implied Consent Law
Like all other states, North Carolina enforces an Implied Consent Law. This means that by driving a vehicle on state roads, you give law enforcement officers implied consent to administer a chemical test to determine your BAC.
If you refuse the test:
Your driver’s license is immediately revoked for a minimum of 30 days
An additional revocation for 12 months is tacked onto your standard revocation period, even if you’re found not guilty
An Experienced Attorney Can Help
North Carolina has no tolerance when it comes to DWI offenses. The laws and penalties can be complicated and severe, especially for multiple offenses. If you’re convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you could have your driver’s license suspended for a year or possibly more. If there are other aggravating factors, you could also face up to 12 months of jail time.
All DWI violators will appear in front of a judge. Talking with a DUI attorney, as early in the process a possible, can help you understand NC’s DWI laws and your offense. An experienced DWI lawyer may also be able to help you receive minimum penalties and could negotiate driving privileges and penalty alternatives.