In North Carolina, drunk driving charges are ranked in severity according to grossly aggravating factors, aggravating factors and mitigating factors. Before 2011 and Laura’s Law, any drunk driving instance was subject to five different levels of sentencing, the highest of which was a Level 1. A Level 1 offense consisted of two grossly aggravating factors or the single aggravating factor of carrying a passenger under the age of 18 in the car at the time of the DUI offense. At Level 1, a DUI charge would carry a minimum of 30 days in jail and a maximum sentence of 2 years. In 2011, North Carolina’s General Assembly passed Laura’s Law, an ordinance that has changed how drunk driving is categorized and sentenced throughout the state. The statute was named for Laura Fortenberry, a 17-year-old from Gaston County who was killed after a drunk driver collided with the car in which she was a passenger in the summer of 2010. The driver at fault had been cited and sentenced for several drunk driving instances before and was heavily intoxicated at the time of the accident. To cut down on repeat offenders driving drunk and to more heavily penalize drivers who have multiple DUIs in their history, the state enhanced their drunk driving sentencing process. Aggravated Level 1 Under Laura’s Law, the state has added a sixth level of sentencing designed specifically to penalize repeat drunk drivers. The Aggravated Level 1, or Level A1, involves any case where three or more grossly aggravating factors have been found. Level A1 sentences can only be applied to drunk driving charges that occurred after December 1, 2011, when the law took effect. These charges can be penalized more severely with a maximum term of three years in jail and a minimum sentence of one year -- longer than the state’s penalties for certain felony crimes. A driver who has been convicted of a DWI at the A1 level cannot reduce or shorten the active jail sentence by choosing alternative penalties such as inpatient treatment, rehabilitation or driver’s education courses. The set amount of time in jail is predetermined and cannot be adjusted. The only exception for this is in cases where the driver who has been charged agrees to use a Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring (SCRAM) bracelet. The SCRAM bracelets, worn at the ankle, are designed to act as on-the-go breathalyzers and monitor the wearer’s blood alcohol content by collecting samples from the air around the body. If the person has consumed any alcohol, the SCRAM will be able to detect the change in blood alcohol content through the person’s sweat glands. The device collects samples at designated times, usually once or twice an hour, to keep the wearer in check. At Cheshire, Parker, Schneider, and Bryan, we represent people charged with a drunk driving offense, including those charged at aggravated levels under Laura’s Law. If you have questions regarding your charges, or need legal representation, contact a Raleigh DWI lawyer at our firm today.