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Driving while intoxicated/impaired (DWI) is an offense committed when a driver operates a vehicle after the consumption of alcohol or drugs or other intoxicants. Increased alcohol levels in the driver’s blood lead to diminished mental and motor reactions which, in turn, reduce the driver’s ability to control the vehicle. This significantly increases the risk of the driver committing errors of judgment and often results in accidents causing severe injuries and even death.

About 38% of all traffic accidents occur because of alcohol related incidents.


In North Carolina the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit is set at 0.08% for drivers over 21 years of age and it is set at 0.00% for those under 21. For commercial drivers, the limit is set at 0.04%.

Having a North Carolina license automatically provides your consent to be tested if stopped by a law enforcement officer, while driving. This is the law of “implied consent” and can be used by the officer to test you if you are stopped on the suspicion of drunk driving, either through a breathalyser test or by an actual blood test to check the BAC. Refusing to take the chemical test will result in your license being revoked.

Points will be added to your driving record and your license will be suspended or revoked, if you convicted of DWI.


If you are over 21 years old, and are caught with BAC higher than the set limit of 0.08%, you may be subjected to criminal actions in addition to administrative actions. If the DWI incident you are involved in is subjected to criminal action, it is recommended that you get in touch with a DWI lawyer as they are experts at handling such incidents and can offer you the best advice.

There are five levels of penalties for drunk driving in North Carolina, with level I being the harshest:

Level V    
  • Fine of up to $200
  • Minimum jail sentence: 24 hours
  • Maximum jail sentence: 60 days
  • Community service: 24 hours
  • License suspension: 30 days
Level IV    
  • Fine of up to $500
  • Minimum jail sentence: 48 hours
  • Maximum jail sentence: 120 days
  • Community service: 48 hours
  • License suspension: 60 days
Level III    
  • Fine of up to $1,000
  • Minimum jail sentence: 72 hours
  • Maximum jail sentence: six months
  • Community service: 72 hours
  • License suspension: 90 days
Level II    
  • Fine of up to $2,000
  • Minimum jail sentence: seven days
  • Maximum jail sentence: one year
  • License suspension: six months
Level I    
  • Fine of up to $4,000
  • Minimum jail sentence: 30 days
  • Maximum jail sentence: two years
  • License suspension: one year

You must also complete an alcohol abuse course prior to reinstating your driver’s license.


  1. Your license shall be revoked for a full year if you are less than 21 years of age and driving under any influence of drug or alcohol in your body.
  2. The license may be revoked for one year for purchasing or trying to purchase any kind of alcoholic beverages.
  3. The license may be revoked for one year for purchasing or trying to help anyone purchase any kind of alcoholic beverages.
  4. The license may be revoked for one year for any person who allows his/her license to be used in order to purchase any kind of alcoholic beverage or if the person under 21 years of age uses a false identification for any such transaction.
  5. Apart from these actions, penalties mentioned above for drivers over 21, may also apply to minors if they are convicted of DUI/DWI.


If you drive a commercial vehicle and hold a commercial driver license (CDL):

  1. You will be barred from driving a commercial vehicle for a minimum of a month for a first offense of driving under the influence.
  2. A second DUI will result in a lifetime driver’s license ban.
  3. Penalties are enforced if you have open or closed alcoholic beverages in the passenger area of a commercial vehicle in any highway, public roadways or streets.
  4. Apart from these actions, penalties mentioned above for drivers over 21, may also apply to minors if they are convicted of DUI/DWI.


An officer may arrest a driver if:

  • He/she is aged 21 and above and is driving with BAC 0.08% or more.
  • He/she is aged below 21 and is driving with BAC 0.00% or more.

The North Carolina enforcement agents set up road blocks to keep a check and detect any case of DWI. It is mandatory not to use alcoholic beverages while driving any kind of vehicle on the motorway. It also prohibits any alcoholic beverages to be kept in passenger area of any vehicle in any public road as well as highways. Refusal to perform the test can lead to revocation of the license for a minimum of a month in addition to about a year revocation by the DMV. In cases where you refuse to perform a test, after six months, when the matter goes to court, the judge pay permit limited privileges for driving a vehicle.
The driver, if charged with DWI, can face severe punishments based on the severity of the conviction. In fact, if you are convicted second time for DWI, you must be imprisoned for the same.
The enforcement agent also helps you deal with any history of alcoholism and you may have to attend alcohol safety school for the same.
The driver can schedule a hearing and consult a DUI/DWI Lawyer beforehand and seek advice on the offense.


If you are convicted of DWI, it will result in your license being suspended or revoked. This means that your driving privileges will be taken away and you will need to apply for a reinstatement of your license once the period of suspension or revocation is over. Reinstating a license after a suspension of a year, or revocation will also mean taking the driving tests all over again. These will include the vision test, knowledge test and the road test. If you do not complete the reinstatement requirements, the license will remain suspended or revoked.

  1. With effect from July 1, 2000, there is an alcohol concentration restriction when your license is restored to you after it had been revoked for DWI or when a Limited Driving Privilege was enforced following a DWI conviction.
  2. If you are being convicted for a second time and your breath analyser shows 0.16% BAC, it is mandatory for the court to order an ignition interlock device to be placed for breathalyser tests on any vehicle you drive.
  3. You need to pay $50 as a restoration fee in accordance with North Carolina law, to the DMV before a suspension; revocation or cancellation can be cleared. A $75.00 restoration fee is required when the revocation results from a DWI conviction. A service fee is also levied to the tune of $ 50 for restoration of revoked license if the license had been surrendered in courts before the date when the revocation comes in effect.
  4. You can submit the fee at:
    NC Division of Motor Vehicles 
    Driver License
    Mail Distribution Unit
    3114 Mail Service Centre
    Raleigh NC 27699-3148    


  • DUI/DWI has been a major cause of death and injury in our nation and it is our duty to prevent such needless pain and suffering. Simply: If you drink, DON’T DRIVE! If we all follow this rule to the letter – thousands of lives will be saved each year.
  • If you have been charged with a DUI/DWI get help from a DUI/DWI Lawyer.
  • See also Suspended License, Point System and Traffic Ticket Lawyers.

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