North Carolina Drunk Driving Laws
From a legal perspective, any driver who has an illegal BAC is deemed impaired, and can therefore be arrested and charged with DWI. Also known as blood-to-alcohol ratio, BAC refers to the amount of alcohol found in a person’s bloodstream. Under state law, it is illegal to operate a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
Like most rules, however, there are a few exceptions to the 0.08% limit. If you are under 21 (the legal drinking age in the United States), you can be arrested with a BAC of 0.02% or more, while anyone operating a commercial vehicle is prohibited from driving with a BAC of 0.04% or higher.
If an officer suspects a driver is impaired, a chemical test may be administered to determine his or her BAC. Depending on the situation, this process may require a breathalyzer, blood, or urine test. Regardless of the type of test the officer requests, every driver in the state of North Carolina is required to submit to chemical testing. This means that, if you refuse to take the test, you will not only be arrested, but also face harsher criminal penalties than you would have if you had failed the test.
The penalties for a DWI conviction vary based on the offender’s prior record of drunk driving, as well as the circumstances of his or her arrest. If this is your first conviction, and there are no aggravating factors (such as excessive speeding, reckless driving, causing an accident, or driving with a BAC of 0.15% or higher), your sentence will include a mandatory one-year license suspension and mandatory treatment for substance abuse.
On the other hand, if you have been convicted of the offense in the past, a second DWI will carry a 4-year license suspension and mandatory alcohol treatment. You will also be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle once your driving privileges are restored—which means you will have to pass a breathalyzer each time you attempt to start your vehicle.
After two DWI convictions, any subsequent drunk driving charge will be classified as a felony offense. Due to your “habitual drunk driver” status, the penalties for a third conviction will include a minimum one-year prison sentence and permanent license suspension. Plus, as a convicted felon, many of your personal freedoms will be at risk, including your right to vote, purchase a firearm, and travel outside of the country.
Fortunately, there are many ways to avoid the devastating impact of a DWI conviction. In fact, with the right legal strategy, a large number of drivers are able to get their charges reduced or dismissed entirely.