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DWI and DUI Punishments in the Carolinas

How two "Drunk Driving” fatalities changed North Carolina DWI and South Carolina DUI Law

North Carolina and South Carolina are considered some of the most penal states in the nation for impaired driving. That’s understandable, as thousands of people die each year as a result of a DUI accident or sustain serious losses from DUI accidents with injuries in both Carolinas.

In fact, South Carolina consistently ranks among the top five states for DUI deaths.

As a result, the North Carolina and South Carolina Legislatures, with the assistance of Mothers Against Drunk Driving MADD, have passed tough laws in the last decade in an effort to combat impaired driving and have further instituted substantial measures to dissuade individuals from getting behind the wheel of a vehicle while impaired.

At Powers Law Firm PA, we understand the nuances of North Carolina and South Carolina DWI/DUI laws. If you have been charged with an impaired driving offense, we're here to help.

You may benefit from checking out of webpage(s) that compare and contrast the different laws in the respective states: DUI/DWI Facts

Emma’s Law – South Carolina DUI

Emma’s law took effect on October 1, 2014. Emma’s law is named for Emma Longstreet, a six year old South Carolinian girl who was killed by a drunk driver on New Year’s Day in 2012. Emma’s law dramatically increased the consequences for DUI offenders under South Carolina law.

For example, any individual who is convicted of a DUI where their blood-alcohol concentration is 0.15 or higher is required to install an ignition interlock device in their car for a period of six months. Furthermore, if an individual is convicted of a second DUI or DUAC offense, the offender must install the ignition interlock device in their car for a period of two years.

Laura’s Law – North Carolina DWI

In 2011, the North Carolina legislature passed Laura’s law to increase the penalties for DWI offenders who had a history of drunk-driving convictions. Laura’s Law is named for Laura Fortenberry, a 17-year old Gaston County resident who was killed in the summer of 2010 when the car she was riding in was struck by a drunk driver.

The defendant in that criminal charge, Howard Pasour, had three previous drunk driving convictions. At that time, judges were not permitted to order repeat DWI offenders to wear alcohol ankle monitoring devices for a period that exceeded 60 days. As a result, Mr. Pasour was able to remove his alcohol monitoring bracelet in January of 2010 after his third DWI in NC that resulted in a conviction.

Prior to Laura’s Law, there were only five levels of sentencing for DWI, i.e., Levels 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. However, Laura’s Law adds a sixth level of sentencing termed Aggravated Level 1 (A1) DWI. The Level A1 sentencing can be applied to DWI offenses that occur after December 1, 2011. In some ways, the punishment under Laura’s Law exceeded that of Felony DWI or what criminal defense lawyers in North Carolina may refer to as Habitual DWI.

Specifically, a person can be sentenced under Level A1 when three or more grossly aggravating factors are present. For purposes of this article, grossly aggravating factors under North Carolina DWI law include: (1) DWI conviction with the previous years; (2) driving while license revoked when the revocation is for impaired driving; (3) serious personal injury to another caused by the offender’s impaired driving; and (4) having a child under the age of 18 in the vehicle at the time of the offense for all offenses that occur after December 1, 2011.

The penalties under Level A1 sentencing include a maximum of three years in prison and a minimum of one year in prison. The Defendant cannot enter inpatient treatment in order to mitigate any sentencing under Level A1. That is, the Defendant cannot be released any sooner than 4 months prior to the maximum range they are sentenced to.

For a complete summary of the sentencing laws for DWI, including grossly aggravating, aggravating, and mitigating factors, please check out our NC DWI Quick Reference Guide.


Attorney Chris Beddow is licensed in North Carolina and handle North Carolina impaired driving matters. That’s true too for senior law firm Attorney Bill Powers. Attorney Chris Beddow is the sole attorney licensed in South Carolina and handles (and is responsible for) all South Carolina impaired driving matters. Mr. Beddow is also responsible for all website content as it may related to South Carolina legal matters.

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