Collateral Consequences of a North Carolina DWI Conviction

The legal consequences of a Driving While Impaired (DWI) conviction in North Carolina can be severe.

North Carolina assigns levels to various DWI crimes. The most serious is an Aggravated Level 1 DWI, which can result in up to three years in jail and a fine up to $10,000. A DWI conviction can also result in a driver's license suspension of up to one year. The Court may also order you to do community service, attend Alcohol and Drug Education Traffic School, and undergo chemical dependency assessment.

However, these aren't the only consequences of a DWI conviction. Even after you've served your time and paid your fines, the long-term professional and personal effects of a DWI conviction can be devastating.

A DWI Conviction Will Cost You Money and Time

Beyond the court-mandated fines and fees, a DWI conviction can have other hidden costs, including:

  • Fees to attend Alcohol and Drug Education Traffic School
  • Installation costs and monthly fees for an ignition interlock device
  • Fees for restoration of your driver's license
  • Higher car insurance rates

It is also time-consuming to complete court-mandated community service, education, and substance abuse assessment. This can affect your ability to do your job.

Employment Consequences of DWI Conviction

While you won't necessarily lose your job or your chance at a future job if you are convicted of DWI, it can definitely have negative consequences on your current and future employment.

How a DWI Conviction Can Affect Your Current Job

People with certain types of public-facing or government jobs—such as teachers, police officers, or government officials—are more likely to be fired if they are convicted of DWI.

Private company policies vary regarding reporting of criminal convictions and how the company will handle an employee's conviction. A company may be compassionate towards an employee who is convicted of DWI, or they may fire the employee. Often, these policies will be spelled out in an employee handbook.

Certain jobs require professional licensing, certification, or clearance, all of which can be affected by a DWI conviction. For example:

  • The North Carolina Medical Board can revoke or suspend a doctor's license for being unable to practice medicine due to "drunkenness" or "excessive use" of alcohol or drugs
  • Commercial drivers' license holders may lose their commercial drivers' license if convicted of DWI.
  • The North Carolina Board of Nursing can revoke or suspend a nursing license if the nurse is convicted of "any crime which indicates that the nurse is unfit or incompetent to practice nursing."
  • Even the State Board of Barber Examiners can potentially revoke a license to practice due to a felony conviction.
  • If a pilot or air traffic controller is convicted of DWI, this will trigger a review of his or her medical fitness. If they are found medically unfit due to substance abuse problems, they may not be allowed to continue working.
  • A criminal conviction can affect government employees' security clearance.

Future Employment Consequences of a DWI Conviction

A DWI conviction can also have a negative effect on your future employment prospects.

In North Carolina, many employers will ask if you have been convicted of a felony when you apply for a job. North Carolina employers generally are not allowed to automatically refuse to hire you if you have been convicted of a DWI (although other types of criminal convictions may automatically disqualify you for certain jobs).

A potential employer may perform a criminal background check as part of the hiring process. Even a misdemeanor DWI conviction will stay on your record for many years.

Employers are supposed to consider criminal history on an applicant-by-applicant basis. If a criminal conviction indicates that a person may be unfit for a particular job, an employer may choose not to hire them. There are certain jobs that may be much harder to get if you have a DWI conviction on your record. For example, a DWI is more likely to be considered relevant to your job application if you would be required to drive a vehicle as part of the job.

If you are applying for a professional license or certification from a state or federal licensing board, you may be required to disclose a DWI conviction. This can potentially prevent you from receiving your license. 

Even if you don't lose your job, a DWI conviction can negatively affect your professional reputation and your relationship with your employer and coworkers.

Consequences for Students Convicted of DWI

North Carolina is a "zero tolerance" state for underage drinking offenses, including DWI. While the threshold for impairment for an adult is a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08, a person under 21 can be convicted of DWI if they have any amount of alcohol in their system.

Above and beyond the legal consequences, high school students can potentially face suspension or other penalties at school. A DWI conviction may also prevent a student from receiving financial aid or scholarships. If they get a DWI while they are in college, a student may also lose their academic or professional scholarships.

Personal and Family Relationships

Even though over 1 million people a year are arrested for driving under the influence, A DWI conviction still carries a considerable social stigma. Your family, friends or other loved ones may make you feel embarrassed or ashamed about a DWI conviction. This can make it more difficult for you to move on productively with your life after your conviction.

If you are involved in a child custody dispute, a DWI conviction can be used as evidence that you are a less fit parent.

Housing Consequences of a DWI Conviction

If there is a criminal background check, a DWI conviction may also make it harder for you to rent an apartment, buy a house, or get a loan.

Have You Been Arrested for DWI in North Carolina?

If you have been arrested on DWI charges in North Carolina, don't put your job, finances, relationships and future at risk. An arrest does not have to result in a conviction. Contact Caulder & Valentine today.


Shelby Office
303 West Marion Street
Shelby, NC 28150
704.754.8401 (fax)
Gastonia Office
316 S Chester St
Gastonia, NC 28052
704.754.8401 (fax)