DWI FAQs

WHEN AM I DWI, OR DRIVING WHILE IMPAIRED, IN NORTH CAROLINA?

In North Carolina, you are DWI (DUI under old law), or Driving While Impaired, when you:

1)  Drive

2)  A vehicle

3)  On a street, highway, or public vehicular area

4)  a.  while under the influence of an impairing substance, or

b.  with a .08* or more blood alcohol level, or

c.  with any amount of certain controlled substances in your blood.

*.04 or more legal limit in a commercial vehicle, or
.01 or more if you are under the age of 21, although the offense
has another name and other penalties.

IS DWI A MISDEMEANOR OR A FELONY?

Either, depending on your record.    Initially, conviction of a DWI is a misdemeanor.  However, if you have been previously convicted three or more times within a ten year period, DWI can be charged as a Class F felony.

CAN I REFUSE TO TAKE A BREATH TEST?

Yes, you can refuse to take a DWI breath test, or a DWI blood test.  But depending on other factors, it may result in the immediate revocation of your driver’s license for twelve months.  The fact that you refused will be admissible into evidence at trial.  Also, regardless of your wishes, you may compelled to blood test under other provisions of the law.

DWI vs. DUI. . . . . WHATS THE DIFFERENCE?

In North Carolina, DUI or Driving Under the Influence, is an antiqued term and no longer exists as a chargeable offense.

WON’T THEY TAKE MY LICENSE ANY WAY?

If you are arrested for DWI, under most circumstances you will immediately lose your driver’s license for 30 days whether you refuse a breath or blood test or not.  After that initial 30 day revocation, if you took the test, you can pay a $100 restoration fee to the Clerk of Court and your regular driver’s license will be returned to you pending the outcome of your DWI charge.   The clear advantage of complying with the test is initially losing your license for only 30 days as opposed to potentially losing it for a year.

WILL I STILL BE ABLE TO DRIVE AFTER BEING CHARGED WITH DWI?    HOW ABOUT IF I AM CONVICTED?

This answer depends on a number of factors, but the short answer is that there are provisions in the law that allow for the issuance of a Limited Driving Privilege both awaiting your day in court and after your day in court if convicted.  A Limited Driving Privilege will allow you to drive to work or school, to the doctor or hospital in an emergency (not regular doctor visits), and in order to maintain the household (this one can be tricky, so limit it to trips to Walmart.  If Walmart doesn’t have it your household doesn’t need it.)

AM I ABLE TO GET A DWI CHARGE OR DWI CONVICTION EXPUNGED FROM MY RECORD?

Although there are a number of factors that go into determining if you would be eligible to have a DWI charge or conviction removed (expunged) from your record, the general rules are as follows:  If you were charged with a DWI that was dismissed, it may be possible to have the charge expunged from your record right away.  If you had a DWI conviction, it may be possible to get a DWI expunged from your record as early as two years from the date of conviction (if you were under the age of 18) and have a clean record since.  If you were 18 or older at the time of the offense, generally, you will not be able to get your offense expunged.  Keep in mind, expungement statutes are tricky.  Check out our expungement page for more information.

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