If you have already been convicted of driving while impaired (DWI), you are probably well aware that North Carolina’s drinking and driving laws are severe. There are five levels of misdemeanor DWI convictions, and if you have only received one prior DWI conviction, your conviction was likely level V, level IV or level III.

These are the three least serious DWI convictions. Yet, your penalties may have included jail time, community service and loss of driving privileges. A second or subsequent DWI conviction would likely be more severe, meriting a level II misdemeanor, level I misdemeanor or felony DWI.

What are the penalties for the most serious DWI misdemeanors?

If you are convicted with a level II DWI, you may be required to pay a fine up to $2,000 and serve between a week and a year in jail. If you are convicted of a level I DWI, you may be required to pay a fine up to $4,000 and serve between a month and two years in jail.

When you were previously sentenced for a DWI, a judge may have suspended the imprisonment term of your sentence. However, that option is not available for level II and level I DWIs.

Also, a second DWI conviction would likely also result in four years of driver’s license suspension. Your third DWI conviction could result in permanent loss of your driver’s license.

When does a DWI become a felony?

If you have been charged with a DWI when you have three previous DWI convictions on your record, you may be facing a felony conviction. Your three previous DWI convictions must have occurred within 10 years of your most recent offense.

If you are convicted of a felony DWI, you may be sentenced to serve at least a year in jail. You will also likely need to complete a substance abuse program while in jail or during your parole.

All DWI charges are serious, but the penalties for a DWI can become more severe each time you are convicted. This is why you should always do what you can to seek the best possible outcome in court.