The North Carolina DUI penalties administered to drivers who violate the state laws include fines, official NC driving license suspensions or revocations, community service and jail sentences. Motorists apprehended on suspicion of committing a DUI violation in NC will be charged with driving while impaired (DWI) and will immediately be penalized with an administrative license revocation of 30 days.

The criminal DUI consequences that arise when a DWI is reported on the driver’s record are issued in addition to the punishments administered by the state Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Learn more about the DUI laws in North Carolina and how to reduce the risk of violation by reading the following sections.

North Carolina DUI Citations and Convictions

Drivers who commit DUI offenses in North Carolina will receive a DWI citation and be penalized with an immediate 30-day license revocation. Consequences for failing the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test or refusing to undergo testing are the same.

However, drivers who decline to be tested when subjected to a DWI arrest in NC will be penalized by the DMV with an additional 1-year license revocation. In addition to the division’s administrative penalties, state courts also impose severe punishments for convictions within the state. Motorists convicted of a violation of the NC impaired driving laws are generally penalized with heavy fines, court-ordered license revocations and prison sentences.

North Carolina Under the Influence Violations and Penalties

The North Carolina DUI penalties administered when a conviction is entered on the offender’s driving record generally vary based on the number of drunk driving offenses he or she has previously committed. Therefore, first DUI violations are generally penalized less than subsequent offenses.

NC DUI charges may also be affected by certain aggravating factors. For instance, drivers who commit manslaughter while operating a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants will be tried as felons, and will be at risk of a permanent license revocation.

First DUI Offense

First DWI convictions in North Carolina result in mandatory license revocations of 1 year and any combination of fines, community service and imprisonment sentences. The fines may range from $200 to $4,000, whereas the maximum jail sentence is currently set at 24 months.

Motorists convicted of a first DUI offense in NC for driving with a BAC of .15 or higher will be penalized with an immediate 45-day administrative suspension, after which they will be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID).

Second DUI Offense

Second DUI violations may lead to a license revocation of 4 years if the driver is convicted within 3 years of the first conviction. Violating the North Carolina DWI laws for the second time will also lead to fines of $2,000 to $4,000 and maximum imprisonment sentences of up to 24 months.

Motorists will be required to have an IID installed on their vehicles for at least three years before they are allowed to resume their driving activities.

Third DUI Offense

Getting a DUI in North Carolina for the third time will lead to a permanent driver license revocation if the driver was convicted for drunk driving at least once within the previous 5 years.

The cost of DUI in these cases currently amounts to maximum fines of $10,000, whereas the administered jail sentences cannot be less than 12 months or more than 36 months. Also, drivers will be required to maintain their IID for at least 7 years after license restoration.

Fourth DUI Offense

Fourth and subsequent DUI offenses in NC will result in permanent credential revocations without the possibility to obtain limited driving privileges for the following 10 years. Also, fourth North Carolina DWI convictions are considered felonies if the previous three convictions were recorded within the previous 10 years. The maximum jail sentence for this type of cases is currently set at 59 months.

Drinking and Driving in North Carolina

The chances of receiving a DWI ticket in North Carolina increase with the amount of intoxicants the motorist has consumed, as alcohol and/or drugs affects the driver’s ability to drive in a safe and responsible manner. Since many DUIs result in fatalities, the state DMV and the courts that process drunk driving charges severely punish drunk drivers.

Therefore, to avoid violating the NC DWI laws, motorists must not operate their vehicles after consuming alcohol and/or drugs. In addition to the penalties outlined above, drivers are also at risk of losing their vehicles if they continue driving with a suspended license due to drunk driving.

North Carolina DUI Attorneys

Since DWI convictions in North Carolina generally result in severe consequences, hiring an experienced defense attorney is an important step toward minimizing the severity of penalties. Apart from preparing the best DUI defense based on the circumstances surrounding your violation, your DUI lawyer will also assist you in filing the required paperwork.

If you are unfamiliar with the exact laws that you have violated and the potential penalties, your attorney can provide you with the necessary explanation.

North Carolina Open Container Laws

Motorists are also in violation of the North Carolina DWI laws if they are consuming any kind of alcoholic beverages while operating a vehicle or if they are transporting open alcohol containers that are in their reach. Drivers will be effectively committing a DUI violation if the open container is next to them or in the passenger area of the vehicle.

Note that commercial operators are prohibited from transporting closed alcohol containers in the passenger area while traveling on any public road within the state.

Reinstating a Suspended Drivers License in North Carolina

One of the consequences of a DUI or DWI conviction is a driving license revocation of a specific length of time. After meeting the reinstatement conditions related to their DUI violation, drivers can initiate the license restoration procedure in person with the state DMV. The general reinstatement requirements of a DUI suspended license or a revoked credential include the following:

  • Completing the revocation period.
  • Obtaining a substance abuse assessment.
  • Enrolling in DUI classes or a treatment program (if required).
  • Paying the applicable restoration fees.
  • Reapplying for a new driver’s license.
  • Submitting proof of a vehicle liability insurance (if required).

Note: Contact a local DMV office to learn whether or not drivers in North Carolina are obliged to submit the standard certificate of insurance (Form SR-22).

North Carolina Alcohol Awareness Classes

Drivers who have committed a DUI violation in North Carolina are often required to enroll in alcohol awareness classes as part of their requirements for restoring a revoked driving license.

For more serious DUI offenses, law enforcement agencies will mandate that motorists participate in a substance abuse treatment program instead of the state Alcohol Drug Education Traffic School (ADETS) program. If required to complete a DUI course through an approved traffic school program provider, drivers will learn of the effects of alcohol and/or drug on their safe driving practices and their overall health.

North Carolina Laws That Pertain to DUI/DWI

Under the impaired driving laws in North Carolina, drivers are guilty of a DWI if they are under the evident influence of alcohol and/or drugs, which affects their ability to safely operate a vehicle. Drivers will also be subjected to a DWI arrest if operating a vehicle with a BAC level above the legal limit.

Adult drivers, for instance are committing a DWI if their BAC is greater than .07 percent. Commercial operators, however, must not exceed a BAC limit of .04, due to the nature of their job. Also, under the state zero tolerance law, drivers younger than 21 years of age are not allowed to drive with any level of intoxication.

Note: Adult motorists who restore a revoked license after committing a DUI offense will be required to abide by a lower BAC level than the standard .08 percent.

Limited Driving Privilege in North Carolina

While completing a North Carolina DUI drivers license suspension or revocation, drivers are prohibited from operating their vehicles for the duration of the penalty period. However, offenders may be eligible to apply for limited driving privileges (LDP) through the court that processed their case.

Drivers must generally meet the following requirements when applying for a DUI-related LDP in North Carolina:

  • Completed a certain portion of the revocation period (if required).
  • Not have committed a DUI violation in NC within the previous 7 years.
  • Do not have any other active suspensions on record.
  • Completed an alcohol assessment.
  • Installed an ignition interlock device (if required).

Note: Drivers who were issued limited driving privileges will typically be able to operate their motor vehicles to and from specific destinations such as substance education and/or treatment facilities or their place of employment or school.

Last updated on Wednesday, March 4 2020.