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DWI Driving Privileges North Carolina

By Bill Powers, Co-Author of the NC Criminal Law Book: The North Carolina DWI Quick Reference Guide

Carolina Map

The NC DWI laws are tough, even for a first offense DWI in North Carolina. The penalties for a DWI conviction can be extremely harsh and may negatively impact your ability to drive without DWI driving privileges North Carolina.

In addition to court costs and fines, a conviction for driving while impaired (what some people still call “drunk driving” or “drunken driving” in North Carolina) often requires the completion of an Alcohol Assessment, Community Service, and some period of loss of license.

One of the most frequent questions asked by clients is, “How do DWI charges in North Carolina affect my driver’s license?” That’s a great question, because if you’re caught Driving While License Revoked Imp Rev (DWLR Impaired Revocation) in North Carolina, that’s an additional criminal charge and Class 1 misdemeanor.

FREE: NC DWI DUI Guidebook

Under the NC Criminal Laws, a Class 1 misdemeanor authorizes up to a 120-day maximum in jail. A conviction of DWLR Imp Rev in North Carolina may also serve as a violation of terms of the suspended sentence for the DWI charges and can also result in an additional period of revocation of NC license.

What Is a Limited Driving Privilege in North Carolina? Can I Get a “Work Privilege” or “Hardship Privilege” After DWI in NC?

Many people charged with driving while impaired or convicted of violating the NC DWI laws may qualify for a limited driving privilege. While some jurisdictions refer to them as “hardship privileges” or “work privileges,” defense lawyers North Carolina and NC DMV call them “ Limited Driving Privileges.”

DWI Defense Lawyers tend to focus on several different types of NC driving privileges:

  • Pre-Trial Limited Driving Privilege (DWI Charges)
  • Post-Conviction Limited Driving Privilege (DWI Conviction)
  • Willful Refusal Limited Driving Privileges
  • Ignition Interlock Limited Driving Privileges

In essence, a standard limited driving privilege allows you to drive to and from work, and for maintenance of the household, during prescribed working hours, subject to limitations imposed under the NC DWI laws. Click here for NC license suspension info.

Additionally, a limited driving privilege may allow you to travel to and from Court-Ordered community service, alcohol assessment, alcohol treatment/substance abuse treatment, or probation obligation imposed by the Judge.

Pre-Trial Limited Driving Privilege in North Carolina

Once charged with a DWI offense, your license is often automatically revoked by the North Carolina DMV for a period of 30 days. Whether or not the NC Division of Motor Vehicle suspends or revokes your NC driver’s license for DWI charges depends on the facts and circumstances of the arrest.


police car

License suspension for DWI charges in North Carolina may involve a BAC Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0.08 or higher. NC DMV may suspend your driver license for a Willful Refusal to submit to breath, blood, or urine testing.

Assuming you are eligible to obtain a pre-trial limited driving privilege, after the first 10 days of standard the 30-day revocation, the steps to obtain a limited privilege may require:

(1) You fill out and sign a Pre-Trial Limited Driving Privilege and Petition for Pre-Trial Limited Driving Privilege

(2) Proof of alcohol assessment (NC substance abuse assessment) from authorized DWI assessment provider in North Carolina

(3) Current DL-123 from your insurance company

(4) After consulting with the District Attorney’s Office (the NC prosecutor) your attorney requests a judge to review, sign, and otherwise authorize your pre-trial limited privilege

(5) Filing with the Clerk of Court and payment of filing fees

IMPORTANT NOTE: Whether the 30-day CVR Civil Revocation for a NC DWI applies, or may be subject to a challenge, are relatively complicated legal matters. It makes sense to immediately seek legal representation from an experienced NC DWI lawyer to determine your individual legal options. There are important timing and filing requirements under the NC DWI laws to both challenge a license suspension and to obtain a limited driving privilege in North Carolina.

Post-Conviction Limited Trial Privilege handcuffs

If you are convicted of DWI in North Carolina, you are required to surrender your North Carolina driver’s license to the court. (Out-of-state licenses are handled differently). However, you may be eligible to be granted limited driving privilege immediately upon conviction, if you meet certain criteria.

To be eligible for a post-conviction North Carolina limited driving privilege, you must have: (1) a valid driver’s license or a license that has been expired for less than a year; (2) no prior impaired driving convictions within seven years of the last offense date; (3) a conviction imposed for a Level 3, 4 or 5 DWI and not a refusal of a chemical test; (4) not been convicted of a DWI in the interim or have an unresolved DWI charge; and (5) obtained and filed with the court a substance abuse assessment.

If you are eligible, your DWI defense lawyer can help prepare the necessary materials for execution by the Judge and filing with the Clerk of Court’s Office, who is responsible for sending documentation of the limited driving privileges to the NC Division of Motor Vehicles in Raleigh NC.

That may require your defense attorney to submit a signed and completed limited driving privilege court form, proof of completion of your alcohol assessment, and a DL-123 or DL-123A from the insurance company notifying the court that you are insured to drive a motor vehicle.

Additionally, if you perform your job outside of the standard working hours of 6 am to 8 pm, Monday through Friday, you must provide your attorney with a letter on company letterhead detailing the non-standard working hours of your employment.

Whether to grant a Limited Driving Privilege in North Carolina is in the discretion of the Court.

Once you submit these materials, your attorney will compile all necessary documentation in order to present your limited driving privilege to a District Court or Superior Court judge (as appropriate under the NC DWI laws) to sign.

Once the privilege is signed, your attorney files the privilege documents with the Clerk of Court’s (criminal charges division) office. Your attorney will then provide you with a file-stamped copy of the privilege which you must keep with you at all times while operating a motor vehicle.

It should be noted that you will not be able to get your NC driver’s license back (some people call that your “plastic license’) until the expiration of the limited driving privileges and you become eligible under the NC DMV laws. If you need another form of ID, you may wish to obtain a passport or some other formal type of identification.

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