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Military Justice Center

Fayetteville North Carolina Legal Blog

The five levels of a DWI in North Carolina

Not every impaired driver causes trouble. In fact, many people who face DWI charges were not even visibly breaking the law at the time that law enforcement pulled them over. For example, an officer may pull someone over for a broken taillight or a recently expired license plate sticker before discovering the driver has been drinking.

The driver who was only guilty of driving while intoxicated may receive vastly different penalties from the impaired driver who ran a stop sign and struck a pedestrian. Consequently, North Carolina has set up five different levels of misdemeanor offenses regarding DWI. 

  • Level 5: This is the least serious of the five DWI convictions, and a judge may even decide to suspend the sentence. However, this driver is likely to pay a fine of no more than $200. The judge may order the driver to spend between 24 hours and 60 days in jail. Alternately, he or she may require 24 hours of community service or a suspended driver's license for 30 days.
  • Level 4: The penalties for a level four DWI are double that of level five: up to $500 fine; 48 hours to 120 days in jail; or either 48 hours of community service or 60 days without operating a vehicle.
  • Level 3: The fine for a level three misdemeanor may be as high as $1,000. The judge may order a jail sentence of between 72 hours and six months, or suspend that sentence and require either 72 hours of community service or a 90-day license suspension.
  • Level 2: While the judge has some discretion for determining penalties for higher levels, once a DWI conviction is a level two, the judge cannot waive the minimum sentence of seven days. The jail sentence could be as long as a year, and the fine could be as high as $2,000. 
  • Level 1: Again, the judge cannot waive the minimum sentence for this level of DWI. The conviction requires at least 30 days in jail, and it could last as long as two years. The fine may be up to $4,000. 

Understanding court-martial appeals

A military member undergoing court-martial is essentially the same as a civilian going through a criminal trial. There are different levels of courts-martial that all bring different punishments. Some of more well-known examples of court-martial that you may be familiar with include deserting during a time of war, insubordination and operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. 

Even after an individual has received a verdict, it is still possible to appeal the decision. Court-martial can bring lifelong consequences, and you do not want one mistake to haunt you the rest of your life. 

Understanding DUI arrests on military bases

The general public and courts hold military personnel to higher standards than everyone else. They are not exempt from the law, as seen in the recent case of a former Air Force chief master sergeant who recently faced convictions for the death of a young man after driving drunk. The chief master sergeant in question had worked in North Carolina at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. 

Civilians and military personnel alike can face legal trouble after drinking. Consequences vary depending on where exactly the crime took place. 

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