For many, jail is the ultimate punishment. You can pay fines, even if they’re large. The state might work out a payment plan so you can afford it over time.
A license suspension is rough. An ignition interlock compels you to stay completely sober when you’re behind the wheel – if you consider that a punishment, that’s probably why you got a DWI in the first place.
Probation and community service are a chore. But for most people, jail is the big one. Getting locked up in a cage, away from friends and family, is a frightening proposition for most people. And if you drink and drive in North Carolina, it’s a distinct possibility.
If it’s your first DWI, you might get away without jail – your minimum 24-hour term can be suspended by a judge and replaced with community service. Even if some aggravating factors are present – extreme drunkenness, especially reckless or negligent driving, or driving while suspended, for example – you still might have your jail replaced by community service. It depends on what the judge decides, and if there are some mitigating factors to help your case.
However, if your DWI includes what are termed “grossly aggravating factors,” it is very likely that you will spend time behind bars.
Grossly aggravating factors include a prior DWI conviction, driving while suspended for DWI, injuring another person, or driving impaired with a minor.
In those cases, even if the judge decides to recommend community service instead of jail, there is a minimum time you must incarcerated. Depending on how many aggravating factors, that could be 10 days to three years.
So your probability of going to jail for DWI in North Carolina depends on the seriousness of your offense. But it is nevertheless a real possibility, one that frightens most otherwise law-abiding people.
Fortunately, designating a driver, taking a taxi, or calling a friend for a ride home will make reduce the probability of jail time to zero. Those are odds that anyone can accept.