Contrary to what you see or hear on DUI police chases, a DUI charge doesn’t necessarily mean jail time. North Carolina state law is clear on the matter.
You’re less likely to land behind bars for DUI under the following conditions: (1) it’s your first DUI offense; and (2) the offense is considered a level-3 misdemeanor or below. For a DUI to register as a level-5 misdemeanor, the lowest, state law requires efforts to mitigate the risk outweigh the efforts to aggravate the crime.
Although a level-5 misdemeanor has a minimum jail time of 24 hours, a judge can substitute the term of imprisonment for community service for the same amount of time. Mitigating factors, as per state law, include a BAC of no more than 0.09, a clean driving record, impairment caused by a drug prescribed to treat a condition, and voluntary submission to authorities, among others.
Alternatively, jail time can still happen but under probation. Unlike imprisonment, probation is a less serious sentence that has proven itself just as effective in reforming a violator. Sometimes, probation is the more preferred sentence because it saves the local government money. A study in 2009 shows that probation costs $1.29 per day less than imprisonment.
Regarding BAC, take note that North Carolina has “zero tolerance” in effect. This means the allowable BAC for drivers should be at zero percent. In other words, no alcohol.