DWI Sentencing in North Carolina

Sentencing in North Carolina

DWI Sentencing in North Carolina

  • Does NOT fall under traditional Structured Sentencing
  • Separate and Distinct sentencing protocols
  • Subject to:   N.C.G.S. 20-179
  • Impaired Driving can be a significant part of Felonies and misdemeanors offense(s)
  • Standing alone, DWI DUI in North Carolina is a Misdemeanor

What are Levels of DWI?

  • Driving While Impaired defined in N.C.G.S. 20-138.1
  • There are now six (6) “Levels” of DWI Offenders
  • The North Carolina General Assembly added  “Aggravated Level One DWI” in 2011
  • During Sentencing Hearing Court considers:
    • Grossly Aggravating Factors
    • Aggravating Factors
    • Mitigating Factors
  • Defined by Statute


See More:  DWI Sentencing in North Carolina 2016


What is Parole Eligibility?

Parole has been specifically abolished in North Carolina for offenses falling under Structured Sentencing; yet, because DWI DUI Impaired Driving in North Carolina does not fall under Structured Sentencing, Parole is technically possible for Driving While Impaired.

As a practical matter, most sentences are completed before there is a real chance of the Parole Commission meeting to discuss any individual matter involving Impaired Driving.

What Sentencing Options may the Judge Impose?

  • Depends on the Level of offense class
  • Levels 3, 4, and 5 give the option of Community Service instead of Imprisonment
  • Level 3 allows for 72 Hours Imprisonment OR 72 Hours Community Service
  • Level 4 allows for 48 Hours Imprisonment OR 48 Hours Community Service
  • Level 5 allows for 24 Hours of Imprisonment OR 24 Hours Community Service
  • Generally, there is a preference for Community Punishmnet

What are the Differences in DWI Sentencing in North Carolina?

  • Substantial line of demarcation is between DWI Levels A1, 1, 2, and Levels 4, 5, 6
  • While there is a preference under Levels 4, 5, and 6 for Community Service, Imprisonment is an option available to the Court
  • Level 1 and Level 2 offenses normally require some period of incarceration
  • The Court may in its discretion allow for options such as CAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring in lieu of incarceration
  • Aggravated Level 1 requires, with a suspended active term, a minimum 120 day split sentence AND 120 of CAM
  • Aggravated Level 1 has a Maximum of not more than 36 months
  • Aggravated Level 1 requires 120 days of post-release supervision
  • Aggravated Level 1 does NOT allow for Parole
  • Aggravated Level 1 does NOT receive Good Time or Gain Time



See More:  How Is Court Scheduled in North Carolina?



What is DWI Probation in North Carolina?

  • Can be up to five (5) years
  • True for Misdemeanors, Felony crime, and DWI cases throughout North Carolina
  • Special Supervised Probation, statutory term for a “split sentence”
    • No more than 1/4 maximum authorized by punishment chart for that Level
    • Served in Local Jail or Treatment Facility for period of confinement
    • No sentence reduction credits for Special Probation / Split Sentence
  • Preference for Unsupervised Probation for Levels 3, 4, and 5
  • Every day of a Split Sentence must be served
  • Imprisonment for a Split Sentence is not technically an “Active Sentence”


Where are Active Sentences for Impaired Driving Served in North Carolina?

  • Place for Confinement – Statewide Misdemeanant Confinement Program (SMCP)
  • Created in 2011
  • Initially did NOT include Impaired Driving
  • Initially included sentences of 91 to 120 days long
  • Legislature has removed 120 “cap”
  • January 2015 ALL DWI cases covered under the SMCP
  • Judgment entered by Court directs North Carolina Sheriff’s Association to find space in jail to accommodate
  • Contract between County and State Department of Public Safety
  • Counties “Volunteer” space to the SMCP
  • Counties may limit the space or “beds” available to the SMCP
  • Defendants are spread throughout the program
  • Normally Defendants are housed within nearby Volunteer Counties
  • The Sheriff’s Association generally attempts to keep person within the County of Conviction
  • Approximately 1,200 inmates presently enrolled
  • Capacity in North Carolina approximately 1,800 inmates
  • $40 per day / per prisoner for confinement awarded to volunteer counties
  • SMCP provides for transportation costs and some medical costs reimbursement


Sentence Administration for DWI DUI Impaired Driving in North Carolina

  • There a minimum and maximums
  • Different than Structured Sentencing
  • Sentence Reduction Credit (Good Time)
  • Parole


What is Good Time?

Secretary of Public Safety sets forth protocols


  • Inmates are awarded Good Time
  • 1 day deducted from prison or jail term for 1 day spent in custody
  • Subject to Violations of Inmate Conduct Rules
  • Disciplinary Process of Hearings can take time away
  • Normally time is cut automatically on the “front end”
  • The reason a person gets out in 1/2 the time is a discretionary choice of the Secretary of Public Safety
  • Good Time is not directly addressed by General Statute(s)
  • In existences for decades
  • Legally the Secretary of Public Safety could change the policy at any time


See More:  Policy and Procedure Manual Department of Public Safety North Carolina


Good Time Sentencing North Carolina


Parole Eligibility in North Carolina

  • N.C.G.S. 15A-1371
  • Eligible for release “only upon completion”
  • Minimum Term OR
  • 1/5th the Maximum Penalty allowed by Law
  • Whichever if Less
  • Less any credit allowed under 15A-1355(c) and Article 19A of Chapter 15
  • Can NOT be paroled without required Assessment and any recommended Treatment
  • Can NOT be paroled if in Residential Treatment Program
  • DART-Cherry / Black Mountain 

What is Gain Time?

  • Related to Inmate Work or Programming
  • Does apply to DWI cases in North Carolina
  • Often applies to prior record level offenses that took place before to 1994
  • Gain Time calculations applied frequently to serious matters such as Murder and Rape


See More: North Carolina Department of Correction Rules and Policies 2010


What’s Different about Aggravated Level 1?

  • Shall not be eligible for Parole
  • N.C.G.S. 20-179 (f3)  Aggravated Level One DWI
  • M/M refers to Minimum / Maximum
  • M/M 12 months to 36 months
    • Release to PRS after 32 months
    • No sentence reduction credit
    • No Parole
  • M/M 36 months to 36 months
    • Release to PRS after 32 months
  • M/M 12 months to 12 months
    • Release to PRS after 8 months







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