DWI Laws in North Carolina

Here are the important facts about DWI in North Carolina.

In North Carolina, you can get a DWI if you drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, regardless of whether your driving ability was actually impaired. And the law in North Carolina says that if you are driving a vehicle, you have given consent to submit to a chemical test for the purpose of determining the amount of alcohol in your blood. Here are some details on the consequences of refusing to take a chemical test in North Carolina and other details about North Carolina DWI law.

In North Carolina, what are the consequences of refusing to take a chemical test (usually a breathalyzer or blood test) when suspected of DWI?

Here are the consequences for not taking a breathalyzer or blood test in North Carolina, broken out by whether this is your first, second, or third offense:

1st offense

2nd offense

3rd offense

1 year license suspension

No statutory provision

No statutory provision

In North Carolina, when do police have to measure your blood alcohol content (BAC)?

In North Carolina, law enforcement officers are supposed to measure your BAC at any relevant time after driving. However, prosecutors may be able to prove your culpability for DWI even if your BAC is taken later than this time.

What is the maximum BAC for drivers under 21 in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, the maximum blood alcohol content (BAC) for drivers who are under 21 (considered minors under some drinking and driving laws) is 0%. North Carolina is a "zero tolerance" state.

What are the minimum jail times for a DWI in North Carolina?

Here are the minimum jail times for a DWI in North Carolina, broken out by whether this is your first, second, or third offense:

1st offense

2nd offense

3rd offense

No minimum required jail term

7 days jail

30 days jail

How long will prior DWI convictions remain relevant for sentencing purposes in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, prior DWI convictions stay on your record (and can be counted against you when you are being sentenced for another DUI/DWI offense) for 7 years.

Can a DWI be “pleaded down” to a "wet reckless" in North Carolina?

In some circumstances, a plea bargain of "wet reckless" might be accepted by the prosecution in your state. A "wet reckless," or a conviction of reckless driving involving alcohol, is usually made as a result of a plea bargain in which a charge of drunk driving is reduced to a case of reckless driving. A plea bargain of wet reckless might occur when the amount of alcohol is borderline illegal, there was no accident, and the defendant has no prior record. But if there is a subsequent drunk driving conviction, the "wet reckless" is usually considered a prior drunk driving conviction; the resulting sentence can be what's required for a second DUI/DWI conviction. If you are interested in trying to make a plea for a wet reckless, you'll need the help of a lawyer.

(Read more about North Carolina reckless driving law and the consequences of a conviction.)

Are ignition interlock devices (IIDs) required for convicted DWI offenders in North Carolina?

Yes, they are required for a second or subsequent offense, or a first offense if the BAC is .15% or greater. The device must be installed after the mandatory period of license revocation has ended. Required period of use: 1 year (if original revocation period was 1 year; 3 years (if the original revocation period was 4 years); 7 years (if the original revocation was a permanent revocation).

Where can I get more information about DWI laws in North Carolina?

Nolo's DUI/DWI topic has many helpful articles, including a Drunk Driving, DUI, and DWI FAQ. For more help after a DWI arrest, see Nolo's Lawyer Directory, where you can view in-depth profiles of North Carolina DWI attorneys in your area.

For more information about the legal limit, see the Blood Alcohol Level Chart

Last updated on 09/01/2010.


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