Driving drunk has a wide variety of consequences, depending on where you were, how old you are, how much you have had to drink and what you were doing when you were caught. DUI/DWI charges are determined by any number of factors and drivers who have been accused of driving under the influence should be aware of what goes into the decision to charge individuals, as well as what impact a specific charge will have on potential penalties and sentencing requirements.
Generally, a judge weighs three sets of factors in sentencing a drunk driver: mitigating factors, aggravating factors and grossly aggravating factors. These factors play a role in the severity of a person’s sentence.
A mitigating factor is one that works in the defendant’s favor. This can be anything that lessens the seriousness of a drunk driving incident, including:
• Having a history of safe driving, meaning that the driver has no offenses that were at least 4 points or higher in the last five years
• Voluntarily submitting to a DWI-alcohol assessment
• Fully participating in any recommended treatment
• Driving safely and lawfully at the time of the incident
• Having a prescription for the drug that caused the intoxication
Aggravating factors are those that work against the defendant or make the incident more serious. Although these factors are typically less serious than grossly aggravating factors, they could still lead to increased penalties and sentencing timeframes. These factors include:
• Having two or more convictions of a driving offense that resulted in at least 3 points on your license in the last 5 years. It’s worse if these offenses are for reckless or dangerous driving.
• Having a DWI more than 7 years before the current incident
• Being convicted for passing a stopped school bus
• Being convicted of speeding from the police of law enforcement officials
• Having gross impairment levels of .16 or higher
Grossly Aggravating Factors
Grossly aggravating factors are the ones that lead to the most serious penalties. Anything that falls under the category of grossly aggravating factors carries with it the automatic stipulation that the driver will be sentenced at a level 2, level 1, or aggravated level 1 for DUI/DWI. These include:
• Having a prior conviction of driving on a revoked license while the license was revoked for drunk driving
• Having a prior conviction for DWI within the last 7 years
• Having a child under the age of 18 in the car at the time of the incident
Levels of Sentencing
A Level 5 sentence is the least severe and occurs when there are no grossly aggravating factors and the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating ones. This carries a fine of up to $200 and potential jail time between 1 and 60 days.
At Level 4, no grossly aggravating factors are present and the mitigating factors are balanced by the aggravating factors. Offenders may be sentenced to a fine of up to $500 and face imprisonment between 2 and 120 days.
Level 3 applies when there are no grossly aggravating factors and the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating factors. Fines can be up to $1,000 and jail time is between three days and six months.
At Level 2, one grossly aggravating factor is present and the defendant can be fined up to $2,000 and sentenced from 7 days to 12 months in jail.
Level 1 applies when two grossly aggravating factors are present, as well as any DWI cases from December 1, 2011, in which a child under 18 is in the car. Offenders can be sentenced up to $4,000 in fines and 30 days to 24 months of jail time.
At Cheshire, Parker, Schneider & Bryan, we represent anyone who has been charged with a drunk driving offense. To discuss your case, contact our Raleigh DUI/DWI attorneys for a consultation today.