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DWI penalties in North Carolina

The penalties for drunk driving in North Carolina can be severe, and even first-time offenders may be sentenced to jail time. North Carolina has seized the vehicles of over 8,000 motorists convicted of DWI since harsher sanctions were introduced in 1998. A driver is considered intoxicated in the state when they have a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or higher, but this limit drops to .04 percent for those with a commercial driver's license.

Drunk driving charges in North Carolina are usually misdemeanors, but repeat offenders may face a felony count. A habitual DWI law also mandates a sentence of a minimum of one year in jail, which cannot be suspended. Fines for misdemeanor DWI range from $200 to $4,000, and jail sentences range between 24 hours and two years.

Drivers under the age of 21 are not permitted to have any alcohol in their system when operating a motor vehicle, and violators face an immediate 30-day revocation of their driving privileges under this zero tolerance policy. Recent legislation has also addressed the issue of driving under the influence of drugs. Police can now require chemical testing for intoxicating substances other than alcohol, and refusal to submit to such a test could also lead to a driver's license revocation.

Those facing DWI charges in North Carolina often feel that the evidence against them is overwhelming. However, even seemingly compelling evidence is subject to dispute by a criminal defense attorney. The toxicology test results often relied upon by prosecutors to establish a driver's blood alcohol level may be unreliable in certain situations, and the behavior and statements of law enforcement officers may be deemed wholly or partly inadmissible if strictly defined constitutional boundaries have not been observed.

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