« Back To Blog Posts

What is the Difference Between a DWI and DUI in North Carolina?

DWI and DUI laws can vary by state. In North Carolina, DWI is the official legal term to describe driving while impaired. Many people think that a DWI means that you are under the influence of illegal substances or alcohol. However, any impairments, including driving while on certain prescription drugs, can qualify for a DWI. Read this blog to learn more about DWI laws in North Carolina. 

What is Considered A DWI in North Carolina?

North Carolina considers any driver who has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of at least 0.08 to be driving while impaired. BAC depends on your weight and your sex assigned at birth. For example, if a 200-pound man has three drinks in one hour, his BAC is 0.08. Also, liquor has a higher ABV than beer, so what you drink impacts how quickly you reach 0.08. 

Driving under the influence of any illegal substance automatically counts as a DWI in North Carolina. Also, driving while impaired because of prescription drugs, such as opiates, can qualify for a DWI even if  you use them with an active prescription. The court uses all the circumstances of the driving and behavior of a person charged with DWI to determine impairment, not just what they find in the blood.

What Are the North Carolina DWI Levels?

North Carolina classifies DWIs based on aggravating factors that impact the severity of the DWI charge:

Gross Aggravating Factors

Gross aggravating factors are the most severe factor that impacts your DWI sentence. Examples of qualifying situations include seriously injuring another person when driving while impaired, other convictions for DWI, having children in the vehicle, and other factors.

Aggravating Factors

Although aggravating factors are considered less severe than gross aggravating factors, their consequences are still detrimental. For example, reckless driving when driving while impaired qualifies as an aggravating factor. 

Mitigating Factors

Mitigating factors are reasons that might justify why you are driving while impaired. One example is that you have taken steps to correct your behavior such as having a substance abuse assessment and following treatment recommendations.

Judges look at all of the present factors and combine them to determine your sentence. 

DWI Levels

The state of North Carolina has five DWI levels that vary in jail time and fines. For detailed information about them, visit the North Carolina Department of Public Safety’s website or call one of the lawyers at Manning Law Firm

How Much Does A DWI Cost in NC? 

The fines for a DWI can range from $200 – $4,000 depending on the severity of the DWI and your driving record. Also, if you need to go to court, then you also must pay additional court fees. 

Is A DWI a Felony in NC? 

DWIs are considered a misdemeanor in North Carolina. However, if you have multiple DWIs on your record or the circumstances of your DWI are especially bad, the court can charge it as a felony. 

How Long Does A DWI Stay On Record in NC? 

A conviction of DWI stays on your record forever, which could prevent you from achieving some of your goals. So, if you plan to drink, find a designated driver or take public transit. Also, if you need to take medicine that might impact your ability to drive, then try to have a friend or family member drive you to your destination. Before you get behind the wheel after drinking, be sure to check your BAC to know whether or not you are safe to drive. 
Need help with a potential DWI charge in North Carolina? When you work with the experienced defense attorneys at Manning Law Firm, your charges could potentially be dismissed, reduced, or dropped depending on your DWI case. Contact Manning Law to find out more.

Taylor Manning
The content on this page was reviewed by Manning Law Firm, PLLC partner Taylor Manning. You can learn more about Taylor's experience and expertise on his bio page.