Celebrating a special occasion or enjoying time out with friends and family can be fun when done responsibly. However, operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol could become a serious problem if you are pulled over by law enforcement. Driving while impaired could result in a number of penalties against you. However, DWI also puts the safety of you, your passengers, and others at risk of injury or death.
At Edwards Law, PLLC, our DUI lawyer knows that, because of these safety concerns, North Carolina takes these charges very seriously. However, we also understand that every situation is different, and the circumstances of your case may not be as they appear. Our criminal defense team takes time to review your case and look for common errors in DWI charges. That way, we can ensure that your rights are protected.
For many people, hearing the terms “driving under the influence” or “drunk driving” is common. However, DUI is simply a form of impaired driving. Alcohol impacts the central nervous system, causing a person under the influence to lose normal control of their physical and mental behaviors. To make the laws more encompassing for other substances or situations that may have the same effect, they were changed from driving under the influence to driving while impaired (DWI). This change simply expanded the definition of what “under the influence” meant.
Driving while impaired is covered in North Carolina’s General Statute 20-138.1, which states that it is a crime to operate a motor vehicle on any street, highway, or public area designated for a vehicle:
Most commonly, your blood alcohol content (BAC) is used to determine whether you should be charged with DWI. If you are over the age of 21, you are legally allowed to consume alcohol. However, to do so while operating a motor vehicle, your BAC must be .08% or below. If you are caught driving with a BAC above this limit, you will likely be arrested for DWI. If you are under the age of 21, you may not have any amount of alcohol in your system. If you are in control of a commercial vehicle, your BAC may not be above .04%.
DWI charges can occur for reasons beyond alcohol. If your driving appears to be impaired and you are under the influence of any illegal drugs, prescription medications, or over-the-counter medications, you may still be charged with DWI. Impairment could also occur if you are found operating a vehicle with a mental or physical disability that limits your ability to safely operate that vehicle. Often, impairment is measured by:
Facing any type of DWI charge can leave you feeling helpless and filled with more questions than answers. However, understanding the type of DWI charge that you face can help you and your attorney navigate the complex legal system and help you build a defense that works for your case. In some instances, your charges could be reduced or dropped. Types of charges you could face include:
Each type of charge carries different penalties, and the severity of your impairment could determine the type of penalties that you could receive.
North Carolina utilizes a sliding scale for penalties issued to those convicted of DWI. Under this scale, a Level 5 DWI is the lowest level and is applied when a person has a .09% BAC or less and was following all other traffic laws at the time of arrest. If convicted, penalties could include:
Depending on other aggravating and mitigating factors, those penalties could be increased. Aggravating factors include:
Mitigating factors include:
Based on the determination of these factors, a judge could:
In addition to the legal penalties, your criminal record could impact where you live or your future educational opportunities.
The right DWI defense for your case will be determined by the circumstances of your DWI and the evidence you face. Sharing honestly with your criminal defense attorney about what happened can help them determine the defense options that you have. Common types of DWI defense include:
While these types of defenses are the most common, your attorney can better inform you of the defenses available after consulting with you and reviewing the evidence of the case.
Dismissing DWI charges can be difficult, but not impossible. Factors that affect the outcome of your case include:
Your attorney can determine if any of these might apply to your situation.
Many think that they can handle their criminal defense on their own, as they hope to save money. Any time you face a criminal accusation, you should seek the help of a skilled and experienced attorney. The prosecution may try to take advantage of an individual who handles their own case by forgoing negotiations or plea bargains.
The minimum fine for a DWI charge in North Carolina is $100. Depending on the circumstances of the charge, and the level your DWI is charged at, a conviction could result in much higher fines and court costs. Determining what potential fees you may be assessed should be discussed with your attorney.
The level at which your DWI is charged will determine the potential penalties you receive, including how long your license may be suspended or revoked. For most first-time DWI offenses, your driving privileges will be impacted for one year. A second offense will increase that time to 4 years, and a third offense could permanently revoke your privileges.
Facing criminal charges of any kind can be difficult. At Edwards Law, PLLC, our criminal defense team can help you make sense of your circumstances. After a consultation with us, we can help make sense of the charges you face and begin building a defense strategy that fits the unique elements of your case. You don’t need to face your charges alone. Contact our offices today and speak with an attorney who can put the needs of your case first.