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Columbus DWI Defense Lawyer

Columbus DWI Defense Attorney

North Carolina takes DWI charges seriously, and the state does everything in its power to punish offenders of the crime. Even first-time offenders run the risk of a license suspension and jail time. When looking at a DWI trial, you need a lawyer on your side who can advocate for you and create an appropriate defense strategy.

Edwards Law, PLLC, is a Columbus, NC, DWI defense lawyer and law firm you can trust for your DWI case. The firm can give you a legal defense that gives you a fighting chance in front of a judge or jury.

Does Edwards Law, PLLC, Handle DWI Cases?

Edwards Law, PLLC, handles all sorts of criminal defense trials, including DWI defense for residents in North Carolina. Doug Edwards, our lead attorney, previously worked as a prosecutor for ten years in Buncombe County. Mr. Edwards worked his way to the position of First Assistant District Attorney and oversaw numerous cases of differing severity.

Mr. Edwards decided to use his criminal law knowledge on the other side of the courtroom and began working as a defense attorney. The National Trial Lawyers named him one of the top 100 attorneys, and he is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Columbus DWI Defense Lawyer

What Is a DWI in North Carolina, And What Are the Charges?

DWI occurs when police officers find a driver intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle. Police determine the intoxication of a driver by using field sobriety tests, breath tests, and blood draws to see if the blood alcohol content measures 0.08 or above.

If the police observe impairment, they will then determine the severity of the crime and analyze any mitigating and aggravating circumstances to decide how to charge the crime. A first-time offender will likely have the state charge their crime as a level 5, the lowest level. Repeat offenders may be looking at an A1 charge.

North Carolina does not distinguish between DUI and DWI in the state. Some other states use both terms for different variations of similar crimes. North Carolina uses the term DWI officially, though many people still use the term DUI in casual conversation.

Mitigating Factors

The state uses mitigating factors in your favor when determining how serious a crime was. These factors show you did not have a flagrant disregard for life during the incident. Some mitigating factors include:

  • Safe driving record
  • No other arrests or charges
  • Lawful driving outside of intoxication
  • BAC between 0.08 and 0.09
  • Prescribed drugs caused the impairment
  • Voluntarily completing a substance abuse assessment

Your lawyer may use these mitigating factors to advocate for a lesser sentence for you in the case where the state finds you guilty.

Aggravating Factors

Aggravating factors work against you when determining the severity of the crime. These aspects showcase additional negligence and disregard for safety while you were intoxicated. Some of these aggravating factors include:

  • Harming or killing other people while intoxicated
  • Reckless driving
  • Blood alcohol content above 0.15
  • Speeding 30 miles per hour over the speed limit
  • Prior convictions for speeding to elude or DUI
  • Causing an accident

Seriously injuring or killing someone while driving will increase a DWI to a felony charge. Additionally, having three previous convictions in ten years will also net an offender a felony charge.


Sentences vary greatly depending on the level the state charges you at. A person guilty of a DWI may serve 24 hours of community service or up to three years in jail, depending on the offense.

  • Level 5: The least severe level, this punishment comes when several mitigating factors are in the defendant’s favor. You may be looking at a fine of up to $200 and jail time of up to 120 days. The judge may turn a jail sentence into community service at their discretion. In 2021, more than half of the DWIs in the state were level 5 sentences, with 21,240 convictions.
  • Level 4: When the mitigating factors cancel out the aggravating factors, the state will use level 4 for its punishment. A guilty individual might receive a maximum fine of $500 and between 48 hours and 120 days of jail time. Judges may punish the offender with 48 hours of community service instead of jail time.
  • Level 3: Judges will use level 3 sentencing when there are more aggravating factors than mitigating ones. The maximum fine at this level is $1,000; jail time starts at 72 hours minimum and a maximum of six months. This is the highest level where a judge can sentence community service in lieu of jail time.
  • Level 2: This guideline comes into play when a grossly aggravating factor is present such as driving with a minor, a revoked license, a prior conviction, or seriously injuring another party. The guidelines for this level allow a judge to sentence a guilty party to 7 days to 12 months of jail time and a $2,000 fine.
  • Level 1: Judges may use level 1 for multiple grossly aggravating circumstances. Anyone facing this level may have a punishment of between 30 days and 24 months in jail. Judges can impose fines of up to $4,000 at this level.
  • Level A1: The highest level of DWI in North Carolina, judges can sentence an offender to one to three years in jail. The maximum fine at this level is $10,000.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a DWI Accusation?

Yes — having an attorney present will help you get the optimal outcome, even if you plan to enter a guilty plea. Most DWI cases end with a guilty plea, so you should have an attorney present to ensure the court respects your rights and you have a fair day in court.

If you plan to take your case to trial, your lawyer can help you with preparing a defense strategy and reviewing the facts of the case. Most defense attorneys use a strategy involving technicalities to formulate a legal defense.

Choosing to represent yourself puts you at a disadvantage when arguing in court. Judges expect you to know the laws as well as an attorney, and you likely won’t have enough time to learn the intricacies of law and prepare your defense.

What Defenses Do Attorneys Use for DWIs?

Attorneys often use defense strategies focused on improper conduct by the arresting officers when trying to have a client’s DWI claim dismissed. When the police pull a driver over, the law outlines the guidelines they must follow during the stop. Any violation of these guidelines could be the basis for a dismissal of the charges.

Police need to have probable cause to pull over a vehicle for suspicion of DUI. A lawyer may be able to argue the arresting officer had no reason to pull you over in the first place, even if you were intoxicated.

In other scenarios, the officers may have mishandled the sobriety tests. You can have a case dismissed for an improper field sobriety test, blood test, or breath test. You can also argue that a person wasn’t driving the vehicle when the police charged them for DUI. The police must prove the offender was operating the vehicle at the time of the incident.

FAQs About Columbus, NC DWI Defense Law

How Much Does a DUI Lawyer Cost in NC?

DUI lawyers charge different rates depending on their level of experience, services offered, and location in North Carolina. In general, the average cost for a DUI lawyer and legal fees is around $2,500 in North Carolina. When you consider that the maximum fine for a DUI is $10,000, the lawyer’s fees are a small price to pay to avoid a costly conviction.

What Is the Statute of Limitations on a DUI in NC?

The statute of limitations for a DUI in North Carolina is two years. The case State v. Turner threw a wrench in this, as lawyers got conflicting signals from the Court of Appeals and the North Carolina Supreme Court. Regardless, the statute of limitations sits at two years for most purposes.

Is DUI a Felony or Misdemeanor in NC?

DWI is typically a misdemeanor in North Carolina, though some aggravating factors can increase a DWI case to a felony level. Having three DWI convictions in the past ten years will result in a felony charge. Additionally, any DWI that causes severe injury or death to another individual will also likely rise to a felony level.

Can the State Reduce a DWI in North Carolina?

Other states allow prosecutors to reduce a DWI to a wet reckless or reckless driving charge, but no such option exists in North Carolina. The state does not have any method for reducing a DWI charge. You will have to rely on an experienced Columbus, NC, defense attorney and law firm to handle your DWI case if you want a reduced sentence.

Edwards Law, PLLC: Experienced Columbus, NC Defense Counsel

If you’re dealing with a DWI, you must talk to a Columbus, NC, defense attorney and law firm, like Edwards Law, PLLC, as soon as possible. Contact us today for a free consultation and to begin work on your case.

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