North Carolina’s Six-tier DWI Sentencing Structure

Can you discuss North Carolina’s six-tier DWI sentencing structure? In North Carolina, driving while impaired is a misdemeanor criminal offense and there are six separate levels of punishment. The levels of punishment range from a minimum sentence of one day in jail that can be suspended to up to 36 months of imprisonment with active time that cannot be suspended. Any conviction also carries other forms of punishment and administrative penalties that will suspend your license for at least one year, in some cases permanently. The appropriate level of punishment is determined by the finding and weighing of statutorily defined factors. The state has a burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt grossly aggravating factors or aggravating factors, and the defendant only has the burden of proving any mitigating factors by a preponderance of the evidence. If the court finds that there are no grossly aggravating factors, a level 5 through 3 punishment will be imposed. If one or more grossly aggravating factors are proven, a level 2 through A1 punishment will be imposed.