Normally, a driver charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) in North Carolina would face a misdemeanor on conviction. The state has five levels of misdemeanor charges from Level V to Level I, with the fines and jail time increasing per level.
However, a Level I misdemeanor isn’t the highest offense a driver can be charged. Under certain conditions et, a drunk driver can face DWI felony charges, which carry even more severe punishments than DWI misdemeanors.
Habitual impaired driving leads to felony DWIs
If an officer pulls over a driver with three prior convictions related to drunk driving within the past 10 years, the official can charge the driver with habitual impaired driving.
On a conviction for habitual impaired driving, the driver will have a Class F felony on their criminal record. They’ll also have to serve a minimum prison sentence of 12 months. This prison time is mandatory, and a court can’t suspend it.
There’s more to a habitual impaired driving conviction than just prison time. Per North Carolina rules, a court can also permanently revoke the convicted driver’s license. This means the driver must reapply for a new one but should first meet several requirements (i.e., proof of insurance, etc.). They also can’t reapply immediately because the court will set a revocation period.
Officials will also confiscate the convicted driver’s vehicle at the time of the offense following a conviction. The vehicle will be subject to forfeiture, and a school board can either sell it off or keep it for use. If the convicted driver is not the vehicle’s owner, the primary owner may request to retrieve the vehicle, but they might have to undergo a court procedure to prove they’re the actual owner.
DWIs turn to felonies for drivers charged as habitual offenders. Because felony convictions lead to long imprisonment periods and vehicle forfeitures, drivers should consider seeking legal counsel to fight the charges in court.