The Effects of Grossly Aggravating Factors on DWI Punishments
North Carolina has special sentencing requirements for Driving While Impaired convictions unique from the sentencing of all other criminal convictions within the state. Perhaps the most unique and potentially the most severe of these DWI sentencing requirements occurs when certain “Grossly Aggravating Factors” are present. These statutorily created factors appear in North Carolina General Statute § 20-179(c) and if present, application is mandatory.
Although you should always consult with an attorney to ensure the accuracy of this information to your own case, these grossly aggravating factors can be summarized as follows – (1) a prior DWI conviction within 7 years of the current DWI offense; (2) the current DWI offense occurred while the defendant had a revoked license which was revoked due to impaired driving; (3) the current DWI offense resulted in serious injury to another person; or (4) the current DWI offense occurred while one of the following was within the vehicle – i) a child under 18 years old, ii) a person with the mental development of a child under 18 years old, or iii) a person with a physical disability preventing their unaided exit from the vehicle.
If three or more grossly aggravating factors are present, the judge is required to sentence a defendant under what’s known as an Aggravated Level One punishment. Generally, this type of punishment allows a defendant to be fined up to $10,000 and also requires a term of imprisonment for a minimum of 12 months with a maximum term of 36 months which may be suspended under probation if as a special condition the defendant serves a term of imprisonment of 120 days minimum.
If only two grossly aggravating factors are present OR if just the above listed 4th grossly aggravating factor is present, the judge is required to sentence a defendant under a Level One punishment. Generally, this type of punishment allows a defendant to be fined up to $4,000 and also requires a term of imprisonment for a minimum of 30 days with a maximum term of 24 months. Under a Level One punishment, certain defendants may be eligible to have slightly reduced sentences in conjunction with certain, special probation terms.
If only one grossly aggravating factor is present (other than the above mentioned factor involving children and certain disabled individuals) then the judge is required to sentence a defendant under a Level Two punishment. Generally, this type of punishment allows a defendant to be fined up to $2,000 and also requires a term of imprisonment for at least 7 days with a maximum term of 12 months. Like under a Level One punishment, certain defendants falling under a Level Two punishment may be eligible to have a slightly reduced sentence in conjunction with special probation terms.
Application of grossly aggravating factors and determination of the correct punishment level may vary from the above information based on your individual circumstances. The above information is simply to help you understand the process and the serious nature of the charges you will be facing. If you are facing a DWI you should be aware of these grossly aggravating factors and how they might affect your case. You should always hire a qualified attorney to help with your DWI case and ensure that your rights are being protected and your case understood by the Court.
The Clifford Division has handled numerous DWI cases and helped clients obtain favorable plea deals, more favorable sentences, dismissals, and not guilty verdicts at trial. We are familiar with updates in DWI law, have completed the police training course for Standardized Field Sobriety Testing, and are familiar with local procedures, district attorneys, and judges.