A charge of driving while intoxicated is already a serious matter. However, DWI offenses can be made even worse by other factors that took place before or at the time of the DWI arrest. Depending on the severity of the sentence handed down by the court, a North Carolina resident could face suspension of driving privileges, large fines, or even time in jail.

FindLaw explains that North Carolina judges determine DWI penalties according to the level of DWI a person is charged with. These levels range from 1 through 5, with 5 the least serious offense and 1 the most serious. DWI levels are influenced by factors that a judge determines have made the offense even worse. So depending on the presence of these mitigating or aggravating factors, the DWI level could be higher.

Aggravating factors can include any offenses committed before the DWI arrest. A person with a previous record of traffic violations is more likely to receive a harsher sentence than someone with a clean record. A judge may also take a prior criminal record into account. Present offenses can also aggravate a DWI level, such as driving with a suspended license.

Other traffic infractions may contribute to a higher DWI level. Judges may look at specific traffic violations committed by the driver while under the influence, such as driving over the speed limit. Also, not all motorists who drive while intoxicated drive recklessly, but those that do may be charged with a higher DWI level than if they were plodding along on the road.

Additionally, judges will consider the status of passengers in the car. An intoxicated person that gets into a wreck not only endangers his or her life, but the lives of everyone in the vehicle. In particular, a judge may decide to increase the severity of the DWI level if the driver had a child in the vehicle, someone who was younger than 18 years old.

These are not the only aggravating factors that can affect DWI levels, and it may take an experienced DWI attorney to recognize additional factors that can impact a DWI sentence. Because DWI levels are influenced by many mitigating factors, do not read this article as actionable legal advice, only as information on this topic.