Could I go to jail if I am convicted of DWI?


The short answer, yes. However, many people are allowed to do community service rather than serve any time in jail.

How do I know what MY punishment will be?

The judge determines the sentence for DWI cases. Judges consider many factors when deciding what the punishment should be including things that aggravate (worsen) or mitigate (lessen) the severity of the offense.

·         What types of things aggravate my offense?

o   Prior DWI convictions (worse if within the last 7 years)

o   Revoked license at the time (worse if revoked from prior DWI)

o   Gross Impairment (0.15 or more Blood Alcohol Content)

o   Accident that resulted in damages of $1,000 or more or personal injury

o   Speeding over 30mph over the limit

o   Passing a stopped school bus

o   Having a child less than 18 in the vehicle (grossly aggravating)

o   Serious Injury (grossly aggravating)

o   Especially reckless or dangerous driving

o   Bad driving record (2 or more convictions of 3 points or more within 5 years)

o   Other (the judge may consider other factors not listed here that seem to make the offense worse)


·         What type of things mitigate my offense?

o   Slight impairment resulting solely from alcohol (0.09 blood alcohol content or less)

o   Slight impairment resulting solely from alcohol when no chemical analysis is available

o   Impairment caused by lawfully prescribed drug taken at prescribed dosage

o   Safe and lawful driving other than impairment

o   Safe/good driving record

o   Completion of a substance abuse assessment and treatment

o   Completion of community service

o   Polite and Cooperative

o   Other (Judges may consider other factors not listed here such as being employed, in school, other good acts etc.)

DWI sentencing levels range from Aggravated 1 which is the worst, to 5 which is the lowest level DWI. A level 5 DWI typically results in a sentence to complete 24 hours of community service or serve 24 hours in jail. An aggravated level 1 could result in a maximum of 3 years in prison.

 It is important to aggressively fight your DWI charge since a conviction will remain on your record. In 2015, the North Carolina legislature changed the law and now DWI convictions may not be expunged from your record. However, if your case is dismissed, or if you are found not guilty, your arrest record may be expunged permanently. 


To find out the expected sentencing level of your Wake County Driving While Impaired charge, and discuss possible defenses contact Raleigh attorney Kristi Haddock or Wiley Nickel with The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel, PLLC. Feel free to e-mail us at or or call our office at 919-585-1486. 


Wiley Nickel

Wiley Nickel lives and works in Cary, North Carolina. In 1998, he graduated from Tulane University with a major in Political Science and a minor in History. After college Wiley went to work for Al Gore and travelled with the Vice President as part of his national advance staff. Following the Gore campaign he earned his law degree from the Pepperdine University School of Law in 2005. While in law school Wiley worked as a law clerk in the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office where he gained valuable criminal trial experience before taking and passing the California bar exam. His first job out of law school was for the Merced County District Attorney’s Office where he worked as a Deputy District Attorney with a focus on prosecuting DWI offenders. Wiley later joined the Law Offices of Joseph Uremovic where he focused on civil litigation and family law. When the opportunity came to join the Obama campaign in 2008 Wiley jumped at the chance. He spent three years travelling with President Obama as a member of his national advance team. In 2011 Wiley left his work for the White House to return to the practice of law. Wiley devotes the majority of his practice to the areas of criminal law, family law, traffic tickets and DMV issues. The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel was started with the goal of providing the best representation possible for all of his clients. Experienced, Compassionate, Aggressive Criminal Defense While defense attorney Wiley Nickel works as the primary attorney for all of his cases, he does have an associate attorney, a team of investigators, forensic consultants, and support staff to call on to help achieve the best possible result in every case. He limits his case load so that he can focus on providing the best possible legal defense to all of his clients. Every case is a top priority and the goal is to have your case dismissed with a focus on being able to expunge your charges at the end of the process. When he is not working, Wiley is an avid family man, distance runner and golfer. He loves North Carolina college sports and is hoping this is the year for Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Wiley is licensed to practice law in North Carolina and California.