A DWI is a serious charge in North Carolina at the best of times. If it’s your first offense, and your blood alcohol concentration was not too high at the time of your arrest, and nothing else happened to make things worse, you might get off with a $200 fine and 24 hours of jail time. A drunk driving charge never looks good on your record, but things could be a lot worse.

There are also what are called aggravating factors that can make your punishment more severe. Having a prior DWI conviction is an aggravating factor, as is causing serious injury or death in the course of the offense. If you committed the DWI with a license that was already suspended, then you can also expect a stiffer penalty.

One of the worst aggravating factors is child endangerment. If you drive while impaired with a person under the age of 18 years, you will add what is called a grossly aggravating factor to your DWI offense.

The judge has the task of balancing the aggravating and mitigating factors when determining your sentence. Be advised that child endangerment is one factor that judges will not be able to erase. In fact, since 2011, a Level 1 punishment – the most severe – has been mandatory in North Carolina for anyone driving drunk with a minor in the vehicle:

  • Fine up to $4,000
  • A minimum of 30 days in jail up to a maximum of 2 years
  • Loss of driving privileges for 1 year

In some cases probation can substitute for imprisonment, with the addition of continuous alcohol monitoring. This means that the offender must abstain from all alcohol for at least 4 months.

It’s worth noting that North Carolina is no outlier when it comes to its tough stance on child endangerment. Most states come down hard on anyone driving drunk with a minor on board. Drunk driving is reckless enough, and a DWI arrest is costly and life-changing. But be advised that if you take a child along on your joy ride, the courts won’t give you a second chance.

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