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Do school bus and emergency vehicle drivers also get DWIs?

On Behalf of | Oct 19, 2023 | Criminal Defense

North Carolina is strict when it comes to prohibiting drunk driving. If a regular driver happens to have a blood alcohol concentration level of .08% or higher during a chemical test, state officials can charge them with driving while intoxicated (DWI). It’s even stricter for commercial drivers, who only need to hit a blood alcohol level of at least .04% to face DWI charges.

But what about school bus drivers and the operators of emergency vehicles such as ambulances, police cars and fire trucks? Are they also subjected to the same laws, and can they face DWI charges?

Even stricter DWI laws

According to North Carolina rules, school bus, ambulance, firetruck and law enforcement vehicle drivers violate the law if they have any amount of alcohol in their systems while on any highway or public vehicular area in the state. The charge also applies in cases where officials accuse a driver of drinking alcohol while operating a school bus or emergency vehicle.

The penalties

A violation of the state’s law on operating a school bus or emergency vehicle after consuming alcohol is a Class 3 misdemeanor. On conviction, the person faces up to 20 days in jail and $100 in fines.

However, if the driver faces charges for a second or subsequent violation, a court will hold a sentencing hearing over the case. The court will then review any aggravating factors in the offense to determine if the driver would face enhanced punishments.

If there are no aggravating factors (or certain mitigating factors outweigh them), the driver faces a “level five” punishment on conviction. Level five carries up to 60 days of jail time and $200 in fines. But if there were three or more grossly aggravating factors in a driver’s case, the charge can go up all the way to an “aggravated level one” punishment. Aggravated level one will see the driver serve up to 36 months in prison and pay as much as $10,000 in fines on conviction.

In conclusion, regular drivers face DWIs for hitting a specific blood alcohol concentration. Meanwhile, commercial drivers are held to a higher standard of safety, with school bus and emergency vehicle drivers even higher. No matter what type of driver you may be, consider contacting our law firm for more information about your case if you face DWI charges.