What are the Factors Surrounding a DUI Charge?

A DUI arrest in North Carolina can cause dramatic and permanent changes to your life. If you’ve been convicted of a DUI, you can be subjected to numerous penalties which can include a suspended driver’s license, fines, and serving jail time. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the DUI arrest, your penalties can increase depending on the severity of the offense, or there can be mitigating factors that can work in your favor.

According to NC law (N.C.G.S. §20-179) requires, after a DWI conviction, a “judge shall hold a sentencing hearing to determine whether there are aggravating or mitigating factors that affect the sentence to be imposed.” The factors are broken into three different classifications and can change the level of offense that you are being charged.

Mitigating factors

Mitigating factors are conditions that can help ease the penalties that you face after being convicted of a DUI. These are also known as extenuating circumstances. Your attorney can use this information or evidence during a court trial to help reduce the charges or to receive a lesser sentence.

Mitigating factors include:

Having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .09 during the incident that slightly impaired your ability to operate a motor vehicle
Operating a vehicle safely and within the law despite being under the influence
Outside of driving under the influence, you have not had any previous driving infractions worth four points and otherwise have a clean driving record
Being deemed to be under the influence of a prescribed medication that was consumed at the correct dosage
Undergoing a DWI Substance Abuse assessment test licensed by the State.
Undergoing a substance abuse program, adhering to the program’s guidelines, and refraining from consuming alcohol for a 60-day period according to the continuous alcohol monitoring (CAM) system

a DUI law book next to a judges gavel.

Aggravating Factors

Aggravating factors are defined according to North Carolina law (N.C.G.S. §20-179(d)), for DUI to include:

Having severely impaired faculties while operating a vehicle or driving with a BAC of 0.15 or higher
Driving in a manner deemed dangerous or reckless
Causing an accident due to negligent driving
Driving with a revoked license (non-DUI related)
Driving in excess of 30 mph of the speed limit
Passing a school bus which has indicated a stop
Driving in excess of the posted speed limit to evade law enforcement
Having two or more previous traffic convictions (non-DUI related) which cost three points or more
Prior DUI convictions that occurred in more than seven years from the current DUI offense

Grossly aggravating factors

Grossly aggravating factors are defined according to North Carolina law (N.C.G.S. §20-179(c)), is the most serious circumstance that can increase your DUI penalty.

They are listed as follows:

Being convicted of a previous DUI with the last seven years of the current offense
Obtaining another DUI after being charged with but before conviction of the current offense
Being charged with a DUI while operating a vehicle with a suspended license due to a previous DUI charge
Being complicit in an accident which resulted in serious injury while intoxicated
Operating a vehicle while under the influence with a minor under the age of 18 present

If you are charged with a DUI and have three or more grossly aggravating factors involved, then your sentence will automatically be elevated to an aggravated level one (the most severe) sentence. An aggravated level one sentence comes with jail time between a minimum of one year to a maximum of three years along with a fine of up to $10,000.

Mitigating factors such as undergoing a substance abuse program will not reduce an aggravated level one sentence.

Having a minor under the age of 18 years old while driving under the influence or having two grossly aggravating factors during the time of the DUI offense will result in a level one sentence. The penalty can leave you facing a maximum of 2 years in jail time with a minimum of 30 days as well as a fine not exceeding $4,000.

If your DUI arrest included only one grossly aggravating factor, then you will face a level two sentence. The penalties start at a minimum of seven days of jail time and can increase up to one year. A level two-sentence can also see you fined up to $2,000.

With a DUI whose extenuating circumstances don’t exceed the aggravating factors, and there weren’t any grossly aggravating circumstances present during the incident, then you will be subject to a level three sentence. The penalties involved include a maximum of six months of jail time with a minimum of three days being served as well as a fine up to $1,000.

If your DUI arrest had to aggravate factors that have been balanced out by mitigating circumstances and you were free from any grossly aggravating factors, then you will face a level four sentence. Your sentence will include jail time between 48 hours and 120 days and a fine, not more than $500.

A level five-sentence is issued if the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating factors surrounding your DUI. This level comes with a fine up to $200 and a jail sentence that can last between 24 hours and 120 days.

If you or someone you love has been charged with DUI in North Carolina, it important to discuss your case with an experienced Asheville DUI defense lawyer immediately. Call us today for your free consultation at 828-759-5556.

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