How to Pay Nine Grand for a Nine Dollar Six Pack of Beer

After a long night of partying and drinking, you should always consider the harsh penalties for getting caught with a first-offense DWI. In North Carolina, even if a driver is of age to legally drink, the costs of driving after consumption can be detrimental with fines ranging from $100 to $2,000, mandatory jail time ranging from 24 hours to more than 24 months imprisonment, and a mandatory license revocation for a period of one year. Court costs, legal fees and fines for a DWI total more than $9500 for a single first offense.

According to the NC Department of Motor Vehicles website, your first conviction can carry a minimum punishment that includes a fine up to $100 and not less than 24 hours imprisonment, 24 hours of community service, 30 days without driving privileges, or any combination of these. Maximum punishments can include fines up to $2,000 and 14 days to two years imprisonment.

Once arrested for a DWI, the offender is taken to the police station and his or her license is revoked for a mandatory minimum of 30 days. According to the website of the Raleigh-based counseling firm First Step Services, “The offender can get a driving privilege 10 days after the arrest if the person gets a DWI Assessment. If the driver gets no assessment, he or she can pick up his or her driver’s license at the clerk of courts office after 30 days has passed and by paying a $50 restoration fee at that time.”

Refusing to participate in field sobriety tests and chemical tests, including those given by a breathalyzer or blood test, will result in the loss of a license for a year if the individual is found not guilty of DWI and at least two years if he or she is found guilty. Also according to the First Step website, “If a first offender registers a 0.16 or higher B.A.C. (blood alcohol concentration) on the breathalyzer, he or she will be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device on their car for 12 months.”

The site continues with further DUI facts, “If this is an offender’s first DWI arrest (lifetime), if he/she blows .14 or less on the Breathalyzer, and there was no accident with personal injury or more than $500 property damage the offender might qualify for ADETS (Alcohol and Drug Education Traffic School). This is the shortest (10 hours) and cheapest ($75) level that can be required by the DWI Assessment. All offenders who are convicted will be required to attend groups and classes.”

Probation is usually included in the sentencing given to those who have a B.A.C. of 0.16 or more at the time of arrest. Whether the probation is supervised or unsupervised will depend on the factors surrounding the specific case.

DWI Assessments, at a cost of $50, are required of all that are convicted of DWI in NC. According to NC firm Plyler Law’s website, “The North Carolina General Assembly has enacted the Safe Drivers Incentive Program, legislation that rewards safe drivers with the lower insurance costs, but that lets insurance companies penalize drivers who are convicted of moving traffic violations or who have caused accidents with higher insurance premiums based on a points system. These points are assessed for convictions and at-fault accidents occurring during the three years immediately before the date of application for the insurance issuance or renewal.”

According to the site, driving while impaired or under the influence with a B.A.C. of 0.08 or greater will carry the maximum penalty of 12 points, which will ultimately result in a 400% insurance rate increase. Although insurance companies vary in their policies and rates, a person who has a basic rate of $300 before a DWI citation might see it increase to $1500. Court costs, lawyer fees and surcharges will also vary depending on the offender’s case.

Along with financial burdens, those arrested and convicted for DWI will have to carry the memory of that event for the rest of their lives. The conviction will remain on their criminal record and follow them wherever they may go. Parents, children, friends and families may also share the guilt and embarrassment that always follows a drunk driving conviction. Even if you are lucky enough to make it safely home after consuming alcohol without causing injuries to yourself the first time, your luck will eventually run out. Thousands of people die each year due to alcohol related accidents.