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Criminal Defense

What Happens When You Get a DUI in North Carolina?

6 min read
Unbundled Legal Help

by Unbundled Legal Help

A first-time DUI offense in North Carolina may carry a $500 fine and 48 hours in jail. If they arrest you for a DUI, call a lawyer immediately. If you are worried about legal costs, there is a way to reduce them. Here’s how. 

The penalties for a DUI in North Carolina are severe, with a complicated sentencing structure. So it’s essential you call a lawyer as soon as they have charged you with a drunk driving offense. An experienced DUI lawyer can help you weigh your options, explore mitigating circumstances, and make sure you know what’s happening at all times.

We can connect you with an unbundled legal services DUI attorney in your area today to limit your costs.

North Carolina is an “implied consent” state. This means when you get behind the wheel of a vehicle in North Carolina, you automatically consent to have your blood alcohol level tested if the traffic officer suspects you may be driving under the influence. 

Never get behind the wheel while intoxicated. Even if you’ve only had a few drinks, play it safe: hail a taxi or ask a friend to drive you home.

How Are Intoxication Levels Determined in North Carolina?

North Carolina is a zero-tolerance state if you’re intoxicated and under the age of 21. This means that if you are under the age of 21 and are arrested for drunk driving, the evidence of alcohol intoxication ‌is enough for a conviction. 

If you are 21 or older, they can arrest you for a DUI if your blood alcohol level is higher than .08%.

If you are driving a commercial vehicle, your blood alcohol level mustn’t exceed .04% alcohol. 

Sentencing Levels for a DUI in North Carolina

North Carolina has six DUI sentencing levels:

  • Level Aggravated 1 sentence results in 12 to 36 months of jail time and a fine up to $10,000. 
  • Level 1 sentence requires a jail time of 30 days to 24 months and a fine up to $4,000.
  • Level 2 sentence leads to seven days to 12 months of jail time and a fine up to $2,000.
  • Level 3 sentence implies a minimum jail sentence of 72 hours (replaceable with community service) and a fine up to $500.
  • Level 4 sentence comes with a minimum jail sentence of 48 hours (replaceable with community service) and a fine up to $500.
  • Level 5 sentence leads to a minimum jail time or 48 hours (replaceable with community service) and a fine up to $200. 

When deciding your sentence, the judge will consider several factors: grossly aggravating factors, aggravating factors, mitigating factors, your age, and more. 

Grossly aggravating factors include:

  • Prior DUIs within the last seven years
  • A DUI conviction while under suspicion for a different DUI
  • Serious injury caused to another person because of your DUI
  • A DUI committed with a minor in the vehicle

One grossly aggravating factor makes your DUI a Level 2 offense while two grossly aggravating factors elevate it to a Level 1 Offense. If you accumulate three or more grossly aggravating factors, you will face a Level 1 aggravated sentence.

Aggravating factors include‌: 

  • A high blood alcohol level: .15% or above
  • Reckless driving or an accident caused by a DUI
  • Prior DUI convictions
  • Speeding while committing a DUI to evade the police 
  • Driving 30 miles per hour (or above) over the speed limit while under the influence 
  • Illegally overtaking a school bus while committing a DUI

There may also be mitigating factors to a DUI:

  • A safe prior driving record
  • A blood alcohol level under .09%
  • Proper operation of a vehicle, other than being under the influence 
  • Impairment caused by prescription medication taken in the prescribed amount 
  • Agreement to undergo a mental health assessment 

If the aggravating factors of your DUI outweigh the mitigating factors of your DUI, they will give you a Level 3 sentence.

If the aggravating factors and the mitigating factors are in balance and additional factors affect your DUI, you will likely receive a Level 4 sentence. 

If there are more mitigating than aggravating factors to your offense, you will most likely receive a Level 5 sentence. 

Do I Need a Lawyer To Handle a DUI Case in Pennsylvania?

A judge will take several factors into account when deciding on a sentence for your DUI. There are several possible outcomes.

Navigating the legal system yourself, especially if you are not familiar with it, can be complicated. Factor in the stress related to a DUI situation—and you may put yourself at a considerable disadvantage by not hiring legal help.

A DUI lawyer can help you understand your options and guide you through your experience in court. They will also look into the mitigating factors of your case and work with the judge to negotiate a less severe sentence. 

If you are dealing with a serious DUI situation that comes with grossly aggravating factors or aggravating factors, you will want the help of a lawyer, since the consequences of your DUI will be substantially more severe. 

If you feel that they have wrongfully charged you with a DUI, a lawyer can help you make your case in court. 

How Expensive Is a DUI Lawyer in North Carolina?

Typically, when you hire a lawyer to take on your DUI case, they will charge a flat fee for the full set of services they provide. This includes researching your case, representing you in court, finding witnesses in case of an accident, and more. So your legal costs may get quite high. Plus, if you need additional legal services that are not part of the standard package, they will charge you an extra $300 to $500 per hour. 

There are other costs you will need to factor in too. In most cases, even if your DUI case doesn’t come with any aggravating factors, you will still need to pay fines. Your insurance provider may also raise your premiums once they learn about your DUI conviction. A suspended license may affect your current and future employment—and, thus, your income. This means the overall costs of managing a DUI can be substantial. 

How To Save Money in Legal Fees in a DUI Case in North Carolina?

Even though handling a DUI case comes with considerable expenses, you don’t want to skip legal help. It’s rarely a viable option. 

As you can see, drunk driving in North Carolina comes with serious consequences. You may lose your license, you may have to pay heavy fines, and you may go to jail. You may also lose your current job or have trouble finding employment in the future. 

We would strongly advise against handling this on your own. But if you are looking to manage the related legal costs, there is a way to do so. Consider using unbundled legal services.

When working with a lawyer from the Unbundled Legal Help network, you won’t have to pay for a full set of services. Instead, you may hire a lawyer for one or several legal services you need the most, instead of their full package of services. For instance, you can hire them to represent you in court or help you understand your sentencing options. This is an effective way to cut legal costs without jeopardizing your case. 

This approach may not work in every situation. If you are facing serious DUI charges that may lead to jail time, it’s best to have full legal representation. But even in this case, you can still work with a lawyer from the Unbundled Help Legal Help network.

We work with many smaller law firms and individual attorneys. You may find their offers to be more budget friendly compared to other options. 

We can connect you today with an experienced DUI attorney in North Carolina to consult on your case.

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