Jail for a DWI in NC?

Will I go to jail for a DWI in North Carolina?

Most people charged with a DWI in North Carolina are in for a big shock to learn the possible penalties that come with this all too common charge. All DWI sentencing in North Carolina is structured by statute. DWI’s in NC can get you jail time, fines and other costs imposed by the court or the NC DMV.
For instance, even someone with a completely clean driving record and criminal record still face a minimum of 60 days to 24 hour jail sentence for their first DWI conviction. The court does have option for special probationary conditions but is still constrained by this structured sentencing. Talking to a DWI lawyer about sentencing options and realistic outcomes to your case is always helpful.

What is the sentencing range for NC DWI’s? Fines for NC DWI’s?

DWI sentencing for jail time ranges anywhere from 36 months to 24 hours. Fines for DWI’s in NC range from $200 to $10,000.

Why are DWI cases treated differently in North Carolina?

DWI laws in North Carolina are, in many ways, much harder than other states. One reason DWI are treated harder is because District Attorneys don’t have the same latitude to plea a DWI charge down to a lower offense like other states commonly do. The NC law § 20 138.4 makes it very difficult for a DWI charge to be plead down to a lesser charge (reckless driving). The reason DWIs in North Carolina are rarely, if ever, plead down is NC Statute § 20 138.4. This law requires that the prosecutor who reduces or dismisses a DWI charge must provide a detailed explanation in court and must make a written report to their supervisor, the elected District Attorney, and the Administrative office of the Courts (NC AOC). The report to the NC AOC shall be kept as public record in a separate database. This law creates a judicial system in which almost all DWI cases are plead guilty to DWI, Not Guilty after a trial or Guilty after a trial.
When I worked at the Public Defender’s Office many years ago in Virginia, I remember helping clients plead some DWIs down to Reckless Driving. This greatly reduced the penalty and societal judgment associated with having a DWI on your record.
Because, DWI law in NC is so tough, you should always consult a DWI lawyer. A DWI in NC will affect your freedom, your ability to drive, ability to work, ability to take care of your family and cost you a lot of money. And of course there is the social stigma of having a DWI charge on your record (DWI charges can be expunged of your record in some cases). Take into account that even a first time DWI can carry a minimum of 24 hours in jail (special probation conditions can be worked out to do 24 hours of community service).

§ 20 138.4. Requirement that prosecutor explain reduction or dismissal of charge in implied consent case.
(a) Any prosecutor shall enter detailed facts in the record of any case subject to the implied consent law or involving driving while license revoked for impaired driving as defined in G.S. 20 28.2 explaining orally in open court and in writing the reasons for his action if he:
(1) Enters a voluntary dismissal; or
(2) Accepts a plea of guilty or no contest to a lesser included offense; or
(3) Substitutes another charge, by statement of charges or otherwise, if the substitute charge carries a lesser mandatory minimum punishment or is not a case subject to the implied consent law; or
(4) Otherwise takes a discretionary action that effectively dismisses or reduces the original charge in a case subject to the implied consent law.
General explanations such as “interests of justice” or “insufficient evidence” are not sufficiently detailed to meet the requirements of this section.
(b) The written explanation shall be signed by the prosecutor taking the action on a form approved by the Administrative Office of the Courts and shall contain, at a minimum:
(1) The alcohol concentration or the fact that the driver refused.
(2) A list of all prior convictions of implied consent offenses or driving while license revoked.
(3) Whether the driver had a valid drivers license or privilege to drive in this State as indicated by the Division’s records.
(4) A statement that a check of the database of the Administrative Office of the Courts revealed whether any other charges against the defendant were pending.
(5) The elements that the prosecutor believes in good faith can be proved, and a list of those elements that the prosecutor cannot prove and why.
(6) The name and agency of the charging officer and whether the officer is available.
(7) Any reason why the charges are dismissed.
(c) A copy of the form required in subsection (b) of this section shall be sent to the head of the law enforcement agency that employed the charging officer, to the district attorney who employs the prosecutor, and filed in the court file. The Administrative Office of the Courts shall electronically record this data in its database and make it available upon request.

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