If you are charged with a DWI, there are several things you should know about NC DWI sentencing. From the beginning, you should understand that North Carolina is one of the toughest states when it comes to DWI’s. Now, let’s get just a big picture look at the sentencing process.
Your sentence is going to be determined by what the court calls “aggravating” and “mitigating” factors. Aggravating and mitigating factors are just a list of things the court looks at to determine how severe your offense is under the law. The different levels of severity are broken down into six classifications: Level five, level four, level three, level two, level one, and aggravated level one. Each level will have a different sentence associated with it, and each level is determined by those aggravating and mitigating factors. Once the court determines what level you are based on the aggravating and mitigating factors, the sentence associated with that level of offense will be given.
Now that we understand what the sentencing process looks like overall, let’s find out exactly what an “aggravating” or “mitigating” factor is. When the court says something is an “aggravating” factor, this means it is a fact about the DWI that makes the offense more serious. For example, if the driver’s blood-alcohol level is more than .15%, that higher alcohol level is considered an “aggravating” factor that makes the offense much more serious. Another example would be if the driver was both intoxicated and driving with a revoked license. One other good example of an “aggravating” factor would be if the driver was convicted of going more than 30mph over the speed limit. These are good examples of just some of the things the court would consider an “aggravating” factor.
When the court says something is a “mitigating” factor, that means it is a fact about the DWI that makes the offense less serious. For example, if the driver is only impaired because of a blood alcohol level that is less than .09, it makes the DWI charge much less serious. Another example is if the driver has a safe driving record up to the DWI charge. One other good example of a “mitigating” factor is if the driver voluntarily submits to a substance abuse assessment and voluntarily completes treatment. These are all excellent examples of some of the many things the court would consider “mitigating” factors.
There is one final type of factor called a “grossly aggravating” factor. Grossly aggravating factors are something that makes the DWI an extremely serious case. Examples of grossly aggravating factors are prior convictions of DWI’s, the driver had a minor child in the car at the time of the DWI, or the driver causes an accident that seriously injures another person. These are all examples of something the court would consider a “grossly aggravating” factor.
If you remember from above, based on the aggravating and mitigating factors in the case, the court will decide what level the DWI is considered under the law. That determination is made by weighing the aggravating and mitigating factors to see which factors impact the case the most. For example, if the court decides the mitigating factors are much more prevalent and impactful in the case, then the DWI will be classified as a level five offense. If the court finds that the aggravating factors are merely balanced by the mitigating factors, and neither type of factors outweighs the other, then it will be classified as a level four offense. If the court finds that the aggravating factors are much more prevalent and impactful than the mitigating factors in the case, then the court will classify the DWI as a level three offense.
When it comes to level two, level one, and aggravated level one classifications of DWI’s, the court begins considering those “grossly aggravating” factors. If only one grossly aggravating factor is present in the DWI case, then it is automatically classified by the court as a level two offense. To have a case classified as a level one or aggravated level one offense, there must be more than one grossly aggravating factor present in the case, with some exceptions.
Being charged with a DWI can be a scary process to go through alone. As you can see above, there are many things that go into the sentences that would go along with a DWI conviction. Remember that the above examples are only some of the things that the court would consider and are by no means a complete guide to how the process can go. Please remember you can schedule a consultation with an attorney at King Law if you are faced with a DWI charge and find out what we can do to help you today. Call 888-748-5464 (KING) to schedule your appointment or complete the request consultation form on our website.