North Carolina DWI Law | Understanding ‘Laura’s Law’

Since this is a blog about North Carolina DWI Defense, written by a Raleigh DWI Attorney it would only make sense that I review North Carolina’s Sentencing Structure. This is additionally important because, as of yesterday, North Carolina DWI Sentencing Structure has changed. I have previously written about Laura’s Law which not only adds a new, more serious sentencing level to North Carolina DWI Law, but also made a change to one of the factors which are presented by the North Carolina Assistant District Attorney, and will impact which level a Defendant will be sentenced.

Though this post will not address the three factors which determine where a Defendant will fall in North Carolina’s DWI Sentencing Structure (a future post will cover them), quickly they are referred to as Mitigating Factors, Aggravating Factors, and Grossly aggravating Factors.

As of yesterday,December 1, 2011, North Carolina now has six sentencing levels for a Defendant convicted of Driving While Intoxicated. The breakdown for each is as follows:

Level 5 carries with it a fine up to $200, imprisonment for 24 hours to 60 days. If the sentence is suspended, the Judge must impose either 24 hours in jail or 24 hours of community service (or a combination of both).
- In order to be sentenced at a Level 5, the Defendant’s Mitigating Factors must outweigh their Aggravating Factors and cannot have any Grossly Aggravating Factors.

Level 4 carries with it a fine up to $500, imprisonment for 48 hours to 120 days. If the sentence is suspended, the Judge must impose either 48 hours in jail or 48 hours of community service (or a combination of both).
- In order to be sentenced at a Level 4, the Defendant’s Mitigating Factors must equal their Aggravating Factors and cannot have any Grossly Aggravating Factors.

Level 3 carries with it a fine up to $1,000, imprisonment for 72 hours to 6 months. If the sentence is suspended, the Judge must impose either 72 hours in jail or 72 hours of community service (or a combination of both).
- In order to be sentenced at a Level 3, the Defendant’s Mitigating Factors must be outweighed by their Aggravating Factors and cannot have any Grossly Aggravating Factors.

Level 2 carries with it a fine up to $2,000, imprisonment for 7 days to 12 months. If the sentence is suspended, the judge must impose an active term of at least 7 days.
- In order to be sentenced at a level 2, the Defendant must have no more than 1 Grossly Aggravating Factors.

Level 1 carries with it a fine up to $4,000, imprisonment for 30 days to 24 months. If the sentence is suspended, the judge must impose an active term of at least 30 days.
- In order to be sentenced at a Level 1, the Defendant must have 2 Grossly Aggravating Factors.

Aggravated Level 1 carries with it a fine up to $10,000, imprisonment for 12 months to 36 months. Additionally, if the sentence is suspended, the Judge must impose an active term of at least 120 days and will not be eligible for early release from any jail sentence sooner then 4 months before the maximum range that the Defendant was sentenced. During those 4 months from release, the Defendant must not consume any alcohol and is required to wear an alcohol monitoring devise, paid for by the Defendant.

As you can see, any conviction of of a DWI in North Carolina, carries with it serious ramifications, those in the upper ranges can face jail time and serious fines. This is why a DWI should never be handled pro se (Defending yourself), rather you should hire a qualified DWI Defense Attorney to handle your case.

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