North Carolina DWIIt’s not easy being a judge. When the verdict has come back guilty, it’s your job to determine the punishment. The law sets down guidelines, but you are there to determine how serious the offense was, and if the sentence you deliver will deter others from the same crime. It’s not easy.

In North Carolina DWI court, the law specifies aggravating factors – factors which, if present, will add to the severity of a DWI and likely add to one’s punishment.

Grossly Aggravating Factors

  • A prior DWI conviction within seven years of the one in for which the offender is being sentenced for
  • A DWI conviction after the one in question, but before the sentencing
  • A prior DWI conviction in district court which was appealed in superior court and was withdrawn or remanded back to district court, and a new sentencing hearing has not been held
  • Driving during the offense with a suspended license
  • Causing serious injury due to impaired driving during the offense
  • Driving during the offense with a child under 18, a person with mental development of a child under 18, or a person with a physical disability preventing unaided exit from the vehicle

Aggravating Factors

  • Gross impairment of faculties, or driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or more
  • Especially reckless or dangerous driving
  • Negligent driving that leads to an accident
  • Driving with a revoked license
  • Speeding while fleeing or attempting to avoid capture
  • Speeding at least 30 mph over legal limit
  • Passing a stopped school bus in violation of applicable statute
  • Other non-DWI motor vehicle offenses or combination of DWI and non-DWI offenses, under certain conditions

How Gross is the Outcome?

North Carolina DWI law specifies punishments in levels. You can look up the detail levels here. But the gist of it is, if you’ve got 3 or more grossly aggravating factors, you’re looking at a year in jail and a $10,000 fine. The levels go down if you have fewer aggravating factors. And yes, there are mitigating factors as well to counterbalance the black marks.

North Carolina is telling us that drunk driving, while a crime, is not black-and-white. Just how serious a crime it is depends on how completely you disregarded the safety of others, and how often you have repeated the offense.  There is no room for drunk drivers on the road, but there is some leeway for justice in North Carolina courts.

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