Drunk driving in North Carolina and across the country results in injuries, death and immeasurable damages. For this reason, states pass laws with strict penalties for those convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol. In addition to exacting punishment for violating the law, these penalties serve as a deterrent to keep others from taking chances by driving after they have been drinking.
Nevertheless, if police arrest you for DUI, you may not realize how serious an offense it is and how a conviction can affect you now and into the future.
Penalties for DUI in North Carolina
Even a first offense carries significant penalties, and all DUI convictions have some common penalties, for example:
- You may serve a minimum prison sentence.
- You will face maximum fines reaching thousands of dollars.
- Your license will be suspended or revoked.
- The court will assign you to community service.
Each subsequent conviction increases in severity. For example, a first offense results in a mandatory license suspension for one year and a minimum of 24 hours in jail. However, for a second offense within three years of the first, the penalties increase dramatically, including a four-year suspension of your license and no less than seven days behind bars.
A fourth DUI within seven years of your previous offenses is a felony charge. A felony count on your record can complicate your life in many ways. You may lose your job, have difficulty finding meaningful employment and struggle to obtain quality housing. In addition, you will face the following penalties:
- Authorities will revoke your driving privileges permanently.
- You will likely spend up to three years in jail.
- The court will order you to pay a substantial fine.
If there are other factors that increase the seriousness of your offense, such as having children in the vehicle or having a blood alcohol concentration significantly higher than .08 percent, the court has the authority to add to these minimum penalties.
It may take years to dig out of the financial hole a DUI can put you into as well as recovering from the personal setbacks you may face. The best way to avoid these consequences is to never drive after drinking. However, if you face drunk driving charges, you can seek help through an attorney with experience in North Carolina's complex DUI laws.