Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol in North Carolina is a criminal offense punishable by jail times, fines or both. However, if the officer who stops you or the state’s attorney determines the existence of one or more grossly aggravating factors, the judge must adhere to a stricter sentencing schedule. The North Carolina Office of Indigent Defense Services explains what the state views as a “grossly aggravating” factor.

The state of North Carolina recognizes four grossly aggravating factors. The first involves the timing between convictions. If you have a prior DWI conviction that dates back to less than seven years before the date of the current offense, you may face enhanced penalties. The same is true if your conviction occurs after the date of your previous DWI traffic stop but before or contemporaneously with your present sentencing.

If a district court doled out your conviction, you appealed to a superior court and the superior court withdrew or remanded your case back to the district court, the judge may use his or her discretion to dole out a harsher punishment.

If, at the time of the traffic stop, you were driving while on a revoked license that was the result of impaired driving, the state may dole out enhanced penalties. Causing serious injury to another person as the result of impaired driving is another aggravating factor that may lead to heightened consequences. Finally, if at the time of your traffic stop, a minor under the age of 16 years-old was in your vehicle, and if tests prove you were intoxicated at the time of the stop, the judge may find you guilty of a grossly aggravating factor.

This article is not meant to serve as legal advice. You should use it for educational purposes only.