North Carolina DUI Laws (All You Need to Know)

North Carolina DUI Laws (All You Need to Know)

The State of North Carolina pushes to prevent driving under the influence

This is why there are strict regulations and harsh penalties. 

But what are the North Carolina DUI laws?

What about the penalties if you’re caught?

Well, we’re going to tell you all you need to know in this article. 

So are you ready?

Let’s dive right in!

DUI Laws in North Carolina

North Carolina DUI Laws

To make North Carolina roads safe, the state implements several laws related to DUI. 

Let’s take a close look at each one. 

Illegal BAC Levels

Driving under the influence is determined by a test that checks the amount of alcohol in your body. This test checks for your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) levels.

Now, in North Carolina, you are considered driving under the influence if your BAC levels reach: 

  • 0.08% for non-commercial drivers 21 years old and above
  • 0.04% for commercial drivers

What people don’t know is that 1 bottle of liquor can already increase your BAC level to 0.02%. So no matter how little you drink, it’s best to stay away from the wheel. 

Underage DWI Laws

The State of North Carolina also has a “no tolerance policy” for underage drivers. This means that if you are under 21 years old and are caught driving with any amount of alcohol in your blood, then you are already considered a DUI. 

What’s more, you are not allowed to purchase any alcoholic beverages. 

If you violate these underage DWI laws, your license will be revoked for one year. 

Implied Consent Law

If you are suspected of driving under the influence, a law enforcement officer will ask you to pull over and prove that you are not intoxicated. To do that, they ask you to do one or both of these: 

  • Field sobriety tests
  • Taking a BAC test (urine, blood, or breath test)

And, according to the Implied Consent Law, you agreed to take these tests whenever asked. 

When did you agree to that?

The moment you got your North Carolina driver’s license. This is why it’s called “implied consent”.

If you refuse the test, your driver’s license will be immediately suspended for 30 days. There will also be a 12-month suspension given by the DMV. While the court can revoke this suspension after 6 months, refusing to take a test is not worth having a suspended license for. 

On top of that, you can still be charged with DUI, even if your BAC level is not determined. 

Other DWI Laws 

Did you know that, in North Carolina, you cannot carry an open container of alcohol in a moving vehicle?

This is called the Open Container Law. This law was placed to prevent drivers from drinking while behind the wheel. 

So how do you transport liquor?

Well, you can transport them sealed. Or, if already opened, you have to place it somewhere where nobody can reach it (for example, the car’s trunk). 

Another law related to DUI in North Carolina allows law enforcement agencies to set up roadblocks. Here, they stop vehicles and check if the drivers are intoxicated or not. 

DUI Penalties in North Carolina

North Carolina is one of the states that have very harsh penalties for people caught driving under the influence. 

The table below details the DUI penalties: 

OffenseLevelFineJail SentenceCommunity ServiceLicense Revocation
1st5Up to $20024 hours – 60 days24 hours (if sentence is revoked)1 year
2nd4Up to $50048 hours – 120 days48 hours (if sentence is revoked)4 years if convicted in the last 3 years
3rd 3Up to $1,00072 hours – 6 months72 hours (if sentence is revoked)Mandatory permanent revocation
2Up to $2,0007 days – 1 yearMandatory permanent revocation
1Up to $4,00030 days – 2 yearsMandatory permanent revocation

NOTE: Level 1 and 2 penalties are given to repeat offenders, persons whose licenses were revoked, impaired drivers that were transporting children, and impaired drivers who got someone injured or killed in an accident. 

All DUIs are also required to take a substance abuse assessment exam and complete the recommended treatment.

BAC Restrictions in North Carolina 

If you had a previous DUI conviction, the illegal BAC level becomes lower for you. Those with Limited Driving Privileges coming from a DUI conviction will also have these restrictions. 

Now, the BAC restriction levels will become: 

  • 0.04% on the first restoration of your license
  • 0.00% on the second and subsequent license restorations

If you are a commercial driver, any BAC percentage after a license revocation will be considered DUI already. 

Moreover, if your BAC level is 0.15% or more, or you’ve had a past DUI conviction in the last 7 years, you will be asked to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on your vehicle. 

Frequently Asked Questions About DUI in North Carolina

We’ll answer a few FAQs in hope that we might answer your questions about DUI in North Carolina. 

What is the difference between DUI and DWI in North Carolina?

There is no difference. DUI and DWI are used interchangeably. DUI stands for driving under the influence, while DWI stands for driving while intoxicated. 

What happens when you get your first DUI in North Carolina?

On your first conviction, your license will be revoked for one year and you will be fined $200. On top of that, you have to spend at least 24 hours in jail. 

A judge can revoke this sentence, but you have to spend 24 hours doing community service. 

Can you drive after a DUI in NC?

Yes, you can, as long as you haven’t committed a felony DWI and your license has been returned. 

Is a DUI a felony in North Carolina?

Yes, but only if you’ve already been convicted of a DWI within the last 7 years OR you have caused injury/death to a person as a result of driving while intoxicated. 

You can also be charged with a felony when you are caught DWI while transporting children. 

Can a DUI be reduced in NC?

Levels 3-5 misdemeanors can be reduced from jail time to community services. 

How can you get out of a DUI in NC?

To get out of a DUI in North Carolina, you or your attorney has to prove that: 

  • You have no criminal record
  • There is no sufficient evidence and reason for a police officer to stop your vehicle
  • There has been a mistake in administering sobriety tests

How long does a DUI stay on your record in NC?

DUI convictions will stay on your record for 7-10 years. If you are charged with a felony, this stays for at least 10 years. 

How long does a DUI stay on your insurance in NC?

The effects of a DWI conviction can be felt on your insurance for up to 3 years. 

Does a DUI show up on a background check in NC?

Yes, a DWI/DUI conviction will show up on your record for 7-10 years. If your employer does a background check during that period, then they will see your misdemeanor or felony conviction.


And that was everything you needed to know about North Carolina DUI laws. 

It’s difficult to get out of a DUI conviction. It’s even more difficult to face the penalties. 

To avoid both, you simply have to NOT DRINK AND DRIVE. You should also make sure to comply with the other DUI-related laws, such as the Implied Consent law or Open Container law. 

If you couple all that with safe driving, then there is no reason to worry about DUI and its penalties. 

Drive safely!

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