North Carolina DUI 101

North Carolina DUI laws are in place to keep intoxicated drivers off the road, and the public safe, in the Tar Heel State. DUI stands for driving under the influence, and it is the term commonly used by law enforcement to refer to a drunk-driving violation. A DWI is a similar violation, and it stands for driving while intoxicated and is punishable by fine, imprisonment and a number of other penalties.

A first-time North Carolina DUI conviction is subject to mandatory jail time and license suspension in some cases.

North Carolina DUI Penalties

First DUI conviction

  • License suspension up to one year for those who refuse to take a sobriety test (reinstatement fees apply)
  • Imprisonment from one day to two years
  • Fine up to $4,000
  • Community service (up to 24 hours)
  • Drivers with a .15 percent blood alcohol content (BAC) or higher are required to install an ignition interlock device in their car. This device works by locking a vehicle after the driver has tested positive for alcohol, thus preventing the driver from driving drunk and possibly injuring others.

Second DUI conviction (within three years of another conviction)

  • License suspension up to four years (reinstatement fees apply)
  • Imprisonment from seven days to two years
  • Fine up to $4,000
  • Mandatory installation of ignition interlock device

Third DUI conviction (within five years of another conviction)

  • Permanent revocation of driving privileges (license suspension)
  • Imprisonment from one week to two years
  • Fine up to $2,000
  • Mandatory installation of ignition interlock device

Fourth DUI conviction (within 10 years of another conviction)

  • Permanent revocation of driving privileges (license suspension)
  • Felony charge
  • Imprisonment from one year to 59 months

For refusing to take a chemical test

  • Minimum one-year license revocation

Can You Get a Restricted License?

In some cases, you may be able to obtain a restricted driving license after the state Department of Motor Vehicles has revoked your license. A restricted license means you have limited driving privileges and can only drive under certain circumstances, such as to and from work, to obtain medical treatment, or for court-ordered treatments. You must request such privileges in writing.

To reinstate your license, you must carry out your sentence, including the period of time during which your license was suspended; provide written proof of completion of any court-ordered alcohol safety program; pay all fines, including court costs; pay the $75 reinstatement fee; and submit a written application requesting full reinstatement of your license.

DUI Programs

Generally, after being convicted of a drinking-and-driving violation, you are required to complete a DWI assessment, which costs $100. One the day of your assessment, you must bring the following:

  1. A copy of your citation
  2. Documentation of your BAC at the time of your arrest
  3. Your complete in-state driving record
  4. Your complete out-of-state driving record (only applicable if you’ve resided in other states)

In North Carolina, the Alcohol and Drug Education Traffic School (ADETS) costs $160 and requires 16 contact hours over a minimum of five days, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. If you don’t qualify for ADETS, there are other levels of treatment you can take. Prices and duration vary considerably.

States across the nation are increasingly getting tough on drunk drivers, and North Carolina is certainly part of this trend. If you don’t want to end up with a burdensome North Carolina DUI, think twice before getting behind the wheel after having “just a little to drink.”