If it sometimes seems to you that more people get arrested for driving while impaired in North Carolina than just about any other place, you are not imagining things. According to a recent report, we have one of the highest DWI arrest rates in the nation.

Last year, nearly 28,000 North Carolina drivers were arrested and charged with drunk driving. According to a study by backgroundchecks.org, that places us in fourth place among states with the highest arrest rates with 518 DWI arrests per 100,000 residents.

Only South Dakota (with 721 arrests per 100,000 residents), North Dakota (678) and Wyoming (676) rank higher.

Unsurprisingly, states with larger populations (California, Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida) have larger totals of drunk driving arrests, but we still ranked fifth in the nation with 27,915 last year.

A North Carolina State Highway Patrol trooper attributes our state’s high arrest numbers to a variety of law enforcement efforts.  “We do that through conducting check-in stations, also participating in ‘Booze It and Lose It’ initiatives from the Governors Highway Safety program.”

As many of our Louisburg-area readers know, the state’s legal threshold for BAC (blood alcohol content) is .08 percent. If you are pulled over and your BAC is measured at or above that level, you can be taken into custody and charged with DWI.

The state has five categories of misdemeanor DWI offenses, with Level 1 the most serious and Level 5 the least serious.

  • Level 1: these offenses are punishable with jail time ranging from a minimum of 30 days behind bars up to two years. It should be noted that the minimum sentence cannot be suspended by a court. You can also be fined up to $4,000 for this offense.
  • Level 2: Like Level 1 offenses, the minimum sentence cannot be suspended. In this case, the minimum is seven days in jail with a maximum of one year. The fine can be up to $2,000.
  • Level 3: The jail sentence minimum is 72 hours and the maximum is six months behind bars. The max fine is $1,000. A judge can suspend the Level 3 sentence but the driver will regardless be required to spend three days in jail and perform 72 hours of community service. You can also be prohibited for operating a vehicle for 90 days.
  • Level 4: The minimum is 48 hours in jail and the maximum is 120 days. The sentence can be suspended with a two-day jail sentence, 48 hours of community service or a requirement that you not drive for 60 days.
  • Level 5: Minimum jail time is 24 hours; maximum is 60 days. The fine is up to $200. Again, the sentence can be suspended by a judge.

There is obviously an enormous range of potential punishments for a DWI conviction. If you face any of these possible sentences, talk to a Louisburg attorney experienced in drunk driving defense before you speak with a prosecutor or investigator.