Being charged with a felony DUI in Etowah, NC may sound like an unwinnable situation, but you have options. Every day, people beat DWI convictions in North Carolina with the help of experienced DUI defense attorneys. Our goal is to prove that the charges are unwarranted, false, or built on faulty data. Every driver has a unique story and requires a personalized defense.
Some people immediately confess to the police, which greatly reduces their chance of a successful defense. Ideally, you should give the authorities as little information as possible until you have had the time to consult with a defense lawyer. Do not admit to being intoxicated and do not plead guilty on your own.
Avoiding a felony DUI conviction and the accompanying punishment requires the assistance of a seasoned Etowah felony DUI defense lawyer.
Our lead attorney at Doug Edwards Law has over 10 years of experience as an Assistant District Attorney in Buncombe County. He understands how the prosecution works and what needs to be done to discredit their claims. That unique courtroom experience makes him one of the best DUI defense attorneys in North Carolina.
Were you recently charged with a felony DUI in Etowah, NC or the surrounding areas? Call our office today at (828) 702-8743 to begin discussing your legal options.
Only in a few select situations. The vast majority of all DUI charges are classified as misdemeanors. These average charges are less severe and have a milder punishment. Simply driving while intoxicated, if it is your first offense, will be considered a misdemeanor and likely won’t include jail time.
A maximum sentence for misdemeanor DUI would include jail time of up to 2 years and a six-month suspension of your license. The judge may also require that you complete an approved DUI education course.
For a DUI offense to be charged as a felony either of the two factors below should be present:
Misdemeanor DUI charges in NC are separated into 5 different levels. Level 5 is the least severe with a $200 fine and a jail sentence between 1 and 60 days. It is also common for the judge to suspend the sentence after the convicted has spent 24 hours in jail or performed 24 hours of community service.
A level 1 misdemeanor charge includes a fine that can reach $4,000 and a jail sentence between 1 month and 2 years. Unlike a Level 5 charge, the judge is not allowed to suspend the minimum sentence for a Level 1 charge. It’s guaranteed that the person convicted with a level 1 charge will at least receive a 30-day sentence.
The more severe misdemeanor charges are not thrown at average first-time offenders. They are reserved for drivers who do not have a license, are repeat offenders, have caused minor injuries, or who had kids in the vehicle. These elements make the crime and the punishment significantly more severe, though they are not quite a felony.
Felony DUI charges in North Carolina always include prison time. Even the lowest-rated DUI felonies have a minimum imprisonment period of 1 year. And in many of the cases, the judge is unable to suspend the minimum sentence or offer much leniency. There is very little that you can do to fight harsh sentencing once you have been proven guilty, which is why it is crucial to invest in a strong defense.
Understanding what causes a DUI charge to become a felony is important. It is often the other events that happen during the time of the violation that causes the distinction. For example, in instances where a DUI violation causes severe injury or death, the charge becomes something more than a simple DUI. Likewise, having multiple violations within a certain time frame can cause a DUI charge to become a felony.
Your criminal history is one of the biggest factors that will influence the severity of your DUI charge. Having a record of DUI charges can cause a misdemeanor to become a felony and cause a felony to become an aggravated felony. In each of these cases, the jail time becomes longer and the fines get higher.
If you are involved in an accident that results in serious injury or death, then the prosecution may try to claim that alcohol was involved to upgrade the charge. This is a common tactic in North Carolina but it does not always work out.
Your Etowah felony DUI defense lawyer can help create a distinction between the crimes and show that you were not intoxicated, were not properly tested, or that the DUI did not cause the accident.
It is considered illegal to operate a recreational vehicle on public roads in NC with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. Some states make a distinction at higher BAC levels where the crime is automatically upgraded to a felony. For example, in some states, having a BAC above 0.16 results in a felony.
North Carolina will not automatically upgrade your misdemeanor to a felony if you are above 0.16 BAC. However, it will affect the severity of your punishment and fines. If your BAC is above 0.15, then you will be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle. The IID includes a breathalyzer that prevents drivers from operating the vehicle above a certain BAC threshold.
We handle misdemeanor and felony DUI charges on a daily basis. The most common DWI felonies that we encounter are habitual DWI charges. These are class F felonies levied against drivers who have committed multiple DUI violations in the past. If you are convicted of more than 3 DWI violations within a ten-year period, then your next charge will automatically be upgraded to a habitual DWI felony charge.
Class F felonies may be very low on the severity scale but they will still have a serious negative impact on your life. The major part of the punishment is a prison sentence of at least 1 year that cannot be reduced by the judge. Any person who admits to a 4th DUI within 10 years is going to spend time in prison. Meanwhile, someone who has been charged but found a good lawyer could avoid the conviction altogether.
A person charged with this felony also has their license provoked permanently. You may be out of prison in a year but you will never be allowed to legally drive in the United States again. This is in contrast to other DUI felonies which generally only revoke your license for a period of four years.
You may also lose your vehicle thanks to the Governor’s DWI Initiative. This allows the state to seize your vehicle at the time of the arrest. If you were driving on a suspended license due to a previous charge, then you will forfeit the vehicle and the state will auction it. Most people who receive a DWI felony charge are driving on a suspended license because of their last DUI violation.
There are a few other felony DUI charges that you might face even if you have never been charged with a DUI violation before. These are unique charges that combine DUI violations with some form of serious injury or death.
You may be charged with felony death by vehicle if your DUI violation resulted in a fatal accident. The prosecutor will need to prove that you were operating a vehicle while intoxicated in a public area and unintentionally caused a fatal accident. Meanwhile, the defense may try to show that the accident was not the result of the DUI violation or that there was no violation altogether.
While this is not a felony, it is still a serious charge can that receive up to 150 days of jail time. The addition of the DUI element is the only real difference between the misdemeanor and the felony. If we can show that your accident was caused by another infraction, then the charges may be reduced.
This is another Class F felony with a maximum sentence of 59 months. It must be shown that while committing a DUI violation you caused serious injury to one or more people. There is no clear outline of what the state considers serious bodily injury, but it typically involves extreme pain, a risk of death, prolonged unconsciousness, or a permanent disability.
This is an upgrade to the felony death by vehicle charge that has a higher minimum sentence time of 64 months and the same maximum of 160 months. To have your felony charge upgraded you must have committed another DWI violation within the last seven years.
This aggravated felony is upgraded in the same way as felony death by vehicle. If you commit a DUI violation and then commit a second felony violation within seven years it is considered an aggravated felony. This charge has a higher minimum prison sentence and more expensive fees.
Everyone makes mistakes, but nobody wants to spend a year in prison because they had a glass of wine at a restaurant before driving home. Some felony DUI cases are very severe with clear evidence and consequences.
In other cases, the prosecutors push for a felony DUI charge simply because they want a harsher punishment. That means they likely don’t have sufficient reason or evidence to support the claim. With an experienced Etowah felony DUI defense lawyer, you can discredit these claims and fight for a reduced charge.
Under no circumstances should you attempt to resolve a DUI violation without legal assistance. You have a right to counsel from a lawyer. If you want the best possible legal counsel in Etowah, NC, then you need Doug Edwards Law. Contact us at (828) 702-8743 to begin discussing your case.