Getting arrested and convicted of a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) offense in the state of North Carolina can be very stressful and problematic. North Carolina has some of the strictest DWI laws and harshest DWI conviction penalties.
Even a first conviction can result in severe consequences including possible jail time, heavy fines, mandatory driver’s license revocation, and loss of driving privileges. This is not to mention the impact that having a criminal record can have on various aspects of your life including your employment, finances, and so on. A DUI conviction in the state of North Carolina stays on your record forever.
If you’ve been arrested for drunk driving, you need to get in touch with an experienced Fletcher DUI defense lawyer immediately. Do not make the mistake of pleading guilty thinking it will go away quickly. Do not attempt to fight the charge on your own, even if you believe you are innocent. There are many critical elements that surround a DUI case, and it is easy to miss them when you are not familiar with the law, leading to a very weak defense.
Our eagle-eyed DUI defense attorneys at Doug Edwards Law are very aggressive and methodical when it comes to defending our clients. We will fight hard to get the case dismissed or minimize the potential consequences. Call our Fletcher criminal defense attorneys today at (828) 702-8743 for effective legal representation.
In the state of North Carolina, it is illegal for non-commercial drivers 21 years or older to operate a vehicle on a public road with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. Drivers operating commercial vehicles are held to a higher standard in North Carolina and are not allowed to drive with a BAC of 0.04% or higher.
Drivers below the age of 21 are considered to be legally drunk if they have any traces of alcohol in their system.
However, a driver 21 years or older can still be charged with DWI even if with a BAC below 0.08% if their driving is impaired or if they test positive for any amount of a controlled substance like heroin or cocaine. Drug charges can complicate a DUI case.
The state of North Carolina utilizes a complicated sentencing system that is based on the presence of aggravating and mitigating factors in the case.
Aggravating factors can include reckless driving, driving at a speed at least 30 miles per hour above the speed limit, negligent driving that leads to an accident, and others. Mitigating factors include a clean driving record, slight impairment with a BAC not exceeding 0.08%, and other factors that mitigate the severity of the offense.
There are five levels of punishment in a North Carolina DUI case:
If the judge determines that your mitigating factors outweigh any aggravating factors, you could face level Five punishment. This includes a jail term ranging from 24 hours to 60days and a fine not exceeding $200. Level 5 is the least serious punishment level.
If the judge determines that there are no aggravating or mitigating factors in your case or that your mitigating factors substantially counterbalance your aggravating factors, you will be subject to Level Four punishment. This includes a jail term ranging from 48hours to 120 days and a fine not exceeding $500.
If the judge determines that your aggravating factors outweigh your mitigating factors, you will be subject to Level Three punishment. This includes a jail term ranging from 72 hours to six months and a fine not exceeding $1,000.
The next two levels are based on the presence of any grossly aggravating factors. These include a prior DWI conviction within the past 7 years, committing the offense while with a minor, an accident leading to the serious injury of a person caused by their impairment, and others.
An offender is subject to Level Two punishments if the judge determines that one grossly aggravating factor is present. Level Two DWI punishment includes a jail term ranging from 7 days to 12 months and a fine not exceeding $2,000.
An offender is subject to Level One punishment if the judge determines that two or more aggravating factors are present. This punishment includes a jail sentence of 30 days to 24 months and a fine not exceeding $4,000.
If there are three or more grossly aggravating factors, the offender will be subject to aggravated Level One DWI punishment. This is the harshest form of punishment. This carries a fine not exceeding $10,000 and a jail term ranging from one to three years.
The severity of the penalties also increases based on the number of prior convictions.
Once you’ve been stopped by a police officer on suspicion of drunk driving, they may ask you to perform standardized field sobriety tests and a preliminary breath test at the scene. Here, you are not obligated to take any of these tests and you should suffer no consequences. Refusing to submit to the initial tests at the stop may even be beneficial as it makes it much harder for the police officer to justify your arrest.
However, they may still arrest you, and in this case, you will be taken to the local police station and may be asked to submit to chemical testing of your breath or blood. While you may refuse to submit to chemical testing, this will come with some consequences such as the immediate revocation of your driver’s license for not less than one year. The revocation of your license will remain in effect even if you are later on found innocent of the crime.
The refusal to submit to chemical testing may also serve as an admission of guilt leading to a conviction.
North Carolina is an implied-consent state. This means that any driver in the state of North Carolina who is lawfully arrested for driving while drunk or impaired is legally obligated to submit to chemical testing to determine their blood alcohol content or the amount of other drugs in their system.
However, before this testing is conducted, the police officer is required to inform the driver about their rights and potential consequences. These include:
In most cases, DUI offenses are charged as misdemeanors. However, certain aggravating factors can cause a DWI to be prosecuted as a felony.
Here are some of the circumstances that can result in a DUI felony charge:
Most first, second, and third DUI charges in the state of North Carolina are classified as misdemeanors. However, if you have been convicted of the offense three or more times within the past ten years, your current offense will be charged as a felony.
You are now considered a habitual offender. A fourth conviction carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 12 months and the permanent revocation of your driver’s license.
If your impairment led to an accident that caused the death or serious injury of another person, you will be charged with a felony.
Many people arrested for drunk driving don’t realize that they have very many opportunities for defending themselves and completely avoid or minimize the consequences, whether or not they actually committed the offense.
There are certain affirmative defenses that can be used to defeat or mitigate DWI charges. These types of defenses prove that the offender cannot be convicted for the offense under the given circumstances, even if they are proven to be guilty.
This is one of the most common defenses in a DUI case. The law requires that for a police officer to stop you in the first place, they need to have reasonable suspicion that you are intoxicated or must have observed an actual traffic infraction. Police officers cannot stop you just based on their intuition or just because they saw you leave a bar.
Reasonable suspicion can arise when the driver is observed:
Also, before they arrest you, they need to have probable cause for an arrest. This can include:
An attorney will assess the details of your stop and arrest and determine whether the due procedure was followed and whether your rights were violated. If the police officer stopped you without reasonable suspicion or arrested you without probable cause, your case can be dismissed.
Improper blood and breath testing will render any evidence collected against you inadmissible in court. There are a lot of issues that can lead to incorrect breath testing including improper machine calibration, not following due procedure when conducting tests (for example, a 15-minute wait is required before a test is administered), and lack of proper instrument maintenance and certification.
Incorrect blood testing can arise as a result of poor storage of blood samples leading to fermentation.
Having an experienced attorney on your side can make all the difference in your case, whether you were drunk driving or not. Being charged with a DWI offense isn’t the same as being convicted and there are many opportunities to save yourself. An attorney will carefully evaluate the details of your case and help you come up with the best defense.
This can include proving that your stop and/or arrest was unlawful or challenging the validity of chemical tests used to prove that you are guilty. If these defenses are applicable in your case, your attorney will focus on ensuring the most favorable outcome in your specific case. Our Fletcher DUI defense lawyers are excellent at negotiating for reduced charges and sentences.
A DUI charge, especially in the state of North Carolina, is a serious and potentially life-altering legal issue that should be treated with the seriousness and urgency it deserves. In addition to facing serious legal penalties including hefty penalties, probable prison sentences, and the loss of your driving license. You also have to worry about how having a DWI conviction on your record will affect your personal and professional life. A lot is definitely at stake. This is why it is crucial to ensure that you get the best legal defense possible.
At Doug Edwards Law, we have a team of highly experienced Fletcher DUI defense attorneys who are prepared to build a strong defense for you to protect your rights, freedom, finances, and future. We know what it takes to guarantee the best possible outcome for your specific case. Call us today at (828) 702-8743 to get the legal representation you need.