Learn More About DWIs

North Carolina DWI & DUI Laws

Jun 29, 2016

In North Carolina, a person can be convicted of driving while impaired (DWI) if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08% or higher or if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A DWI is a drunk driving conviction is above the state legal alcohol limit, rendering the driver legally impaired.

Legal limit in North Carolina:

  • Standard, non-commercial drivers: .08% BAC
  • Commercial drivers: .04% BAC
  • Drivers under 21: 0.0% BAC (zero tolerance)

Penalties, Fines, & Suspension

North Carolina DUI & DWI Penalties, Fines, & Suspension 
Penalty 1st offense 2nd offense 3rd offense
Sentence 24 hours 4 days 14-30 days
Fine $200 Varies Varies
Driver’s License Suspension 60 days to 1 year 1 to 4 years 1 year to permanent


Chemical Test Refusal

North Carolina is an “implied consent” state, which means that anyone with a North Carolina driver’s license has agreed to take a breath, blood, or urine test if arrested or stopped for a DWI. If you do not comply with the chemical test, the state can suspend a person’s driving privileges. If a driver refuses a chemical test multiple times, the punishment can be increased. All driver’s license suspension for chemical test refusal is in addition to any punishment for the DUI conviction.

1st offense: License suspended for 1 year

2nd offense: No statutory provision

3rd offense: No statutory provision

Ignition Interlock

After your first DWI conviction, the driver will be required to have a ignition interlock system installed into their car for one year. This will increase to three years after a second conviction and seven years after a third conviction. The convicted driver will be responsible cost of installation and lease of the ignition interlock device.

Criminal Record

In North Carolina a DWI conviction will stay on your record for up to 7 years and can be counted against you if you are convicted for another DWI during that period.

Under 21

North Carolina is a “Zero Tolerance” state when it comes to minors drinking and driving. A DWI conviction of any degree for a person under the age of 21 will result in having their license revoked for up to 1 year.

DWI with a Child Passenger

If you are caught driving while impaired with a child under the age of 18 in the vehicle, it is considered an aggravated DWI.

More on NC DWI Laws:

North Carolina Department of Transportation: Booze It & Lose It brochure:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Drunk Driving Fact Sheets:


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Updated: July 8, 2016 at 5:04 pm