North Carolina DWI Laws & Penalties

North Carolina DWI

North Carolina DWI law was changed in 1983 by the North Carolina General Assembly by the Safe Roads Act. The Safe Roads Act repealed all previous NC DWI laws and enacted what is now referred to as North Carolina DWI laws. This new law is similar to other states in that it includes the (2) charges, the driving while impaired and an additional charge commonly referred to as the 'per se' law.

North Carolina DWI can be proven in one of two ways:

  • By proving the driver's physical or mental fitness are appreciably impaired by alcohol, drugs or a combination of both.
  • By proving the driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was 0.08% or more while operating the motor vehicle. (This is the per se charge)


If a North Carolina police officer charges you with a DWI, you will be *asked to take a chemical test of your breath or blood. If you refuse to perform any required test, your drivers license will be immediately revoked for at least 30 days and the DMV will revoke your driving privileges for a minimum of 12 months. The judge may allow a limited driving privilege after (6) months of the revocation due to the refusal.

If your chemical test results in an alcohol concentration of .08% or more (for CDL drivers, .04% or more), your driving privileges will be revoked immediately for a minimum of 30 days. Additionally, the results of your chemical test or the fact that you refused to take the test will be admissible as evidence in court.

North Carolina Level Five DWI Punishments:

North Carolina Level Four DWI Punishments:

North Carolina Level Three DWI Punishments:

  • Drivers License Suspension:  permanent revocation (if prior within 5 years of 3rd offense)
  • Fine:  Up to $1,000
  • Jail:  72 hours to 6 months
  • Community Service:  72 hours or 90 day license forfeiture in lieu of jail time
  • Possible substance abuse assessment and education or treatment

North Carolina Level Two DWI Punishments:

  • Drivers License Suspension:  permanent revocation (if prior within 5 years of 2nd offense)
  • Fine:  Up to $2,000
  • Jail:  7 days to 24 months
  • Community Service:  72 hours or 90 day license forfeiture in lieu of jail time
  • Substance abuse assessment and education or treatment

North Carolina Level One DWI Punishments:

  • Drivers License Suspension:  permanent revocation (if prior within 5 years of 2nd offense)
  • Fine:  Up to $4,000
  • Jail:  30 days to 24 months
  • Community Service:  72 hours or 90 day license forfeiture in lieu of jail time
  • Substance abuse assessment and education or treatment

North Carolina Implied Consent Laws

  • Chemical testing is allowed whether it be breath or blood test as selected by the officer.
  • The officer must advise the defendant of the penalties for test refusal.
  • If the defendant refuses the test they face an immediate license seizure, a 12 month license revocation and the refusal is admissible in court.
  • The PBT is only admissible to establish probable cause.

Chemical Testing

  • All chemical tests must be done by a person with a valid permit that is in accordance with the Commission of Health Services.
  • Blood draws for police testing must be administered by a licensed physician, registered nurse orother qualified person.
  • The defendant has the right to have an independent chemical test done by a qualified person of their choice. The costs of an independent test are the defendant's responsibility.
  • There are no statutory provision as to the disclosure of the test results to the defendant.

Notes: 

  • A DWI conviction with a BAC of .16% or more, or a 2 DWI convictions within a seven year period will require an ignition interlock device (IID) to be installed in all of the drivers vehicles, leased, rented, etc...
  • If you are convicted of DWI while your license is revoked for an earlier DWI conviction, the court may order your vehicle seized and sold.

North Carolina DWI DMV Drivers License Re-Instatements

After a DWI offense the NC DMV takes administrative action against your driving privileges, this is a separate action from the North Carolina court system. In order to reinstate your drivers license after the administrative revocation by the NC DMV you'll have to complete the following:

  • Mandatory alcohol/drug substance abuse assessment (ADETS treatment if applicable).
  • Paid the required fees; $100 for the assessment, $160 for the ADETS treatment (or if using another approved service provider must pay associated fees). 
North Carolina DWI laws are some of the toughest DWI laws in the nation. If you are facing these charges it is in your best interest to seek the counsel of a skilled North Carolina DWI lawyer.

North Carolina DWI Attorneys

If you're facing a NC DWI charge don't make the mistake of trying to represent yourself or worse just pleading guilty.  DWI defense is a complex part of the law and requires a skilled attorney who has represented clients in similar situations.  You want to speak with only those attorneys who ONLY handle DWI cases- a specialist.

DUI Arrest Help.com has compiled a list of skilled dui defense attorneys in North Carolina who have agreed to offer you a free initial consultation to discuss your case.  There is no obligation to use them, and you can get some great information about what you should do.  

Click here to speak with one of our North Carolina DWI lawyers.

SR22 Insurance Considerations after a North Carolina DWI

North Carolina DWI law requires that those convicted must maintain high risk auto insurance for a period of 3 years after they get their driving privileges back.  High risk auto insurance in North Carolina is referred to as a SR-22 insurance policy. 

DUI Arrest Help.com has partnered with the largest and most trusted SR22 insurance provider in the state of North Carolina and has worked out a special discount only available here to our website visitors.

You won't be able to find a cheaper SR22 insurance policy in North Carolina for any less.  Type in your zip code below so we can provide you with the cheapest rates in your area.



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Additional North Carolina DWI Resources