There’s no denying that driving while intoxicated is dangerous and illegal. North Carolina has very strict laws intended to reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road. Drivers accused of felony DUI face the harshest punishments, including steep fines and jail time. If you are someone who has been accused of felony DWI/DUI, then your priority should be to call a Waynesville DUI defense lawyer.
At Doug Edwards Law, our leading defense attorney has more than ten years of experience working with the prosecution as an Assistant District Attorney. He has a unique understanding of DUI cases and how they are prosecuted. He knows what the prosecution will look for when building a case and he knows how to prepare for these tactics.
If you want to avoid hefty fines and potential jail time, then you need to have a competent Waynesville felony DUI defense lawyer on your side. Don’t admit to guilt and never take a plea agreement until you’ve had the opportunity to discuss your defense with a professional. There are often several avenues of defense available in DUI cases.
Contact our office today at (828) 702-8743 for a free consultation.
In most cases, a DUI violation is not considered a felony charge in the state of North Carolina. However, there are some circumstances where a DWI can result in a separate felony charge with a much harsher punishment. The factors that influence this classification include:
A simple DUI that doesn’t cause serious harm is almost always considered a misdemeanor in Waynesville.
But not all misdemeanor crimes carry the same punishment. In North Carolina, a DUI misdemeanor can be placed on 1 of 5 different levels. The severity of the punishment and fines increases as the level reaches 1.
This is the most severe form of DUI misdemeanor. Even though it is not classified as a felony the potential jail time can be longer than a minor DUI felony. The maximum fine for a level 1 misdemeanor is $4,000. The imprisonment period is anywhere between 30 days and 2 years. The judge does not have the option to suspend the minimum sentence for a level 1 misdemeanor.
The second level has a maximum potential fine of $2,000. The imprisonment period is between seven days and one year. Similar to a Level 1 charge, the judge is unable to suspend the minimum jail time. That means you are guaranteed to spend at least 7 days in jail if convicted.
The third level has an even lower maximum fine of $1,000 and jail time between three days and six months. However, the judge does have the option to suspend the sentence under certain circumstances. The offender must either spend 3 days in jail, refrain from operating a vehicle for 90 days, or complete at least 72 hours of community service.
The maximum fine for a Level 4 charge is $500. The minimum time spent in jail is 48 hours and the maximum is 120 days. Once again, the judge has the option to suspend the sentence if the offender meets the criteria. That includes either 48 hours of jail time, 48 hours of community service, or 60 days without operating a vehicle.
This final level is where most first-time offenders find themselves. The maximum fine is $200 and the jail time is between 1 and 60 days. Most offenders do not spend any time in jail when found guilty of a Level 5 DUI in NC. The judge will typically suspend the sentence once 24 hours of community service has been completed or if the offender does not operate a vehicle for a period of 30 days.
If you are being charged with your first DUI, then it will most likely be classified as a Level 5 misdemeanor. Some circumstances will escalate the charge.
If you meet multiple criteria mentioned above, then your charge may be escalated to a Level 1 or Level 2 felony charge. The maximum punishment for a Level 1 misdemeanor is actually longer than the average imprisonment period for a habitual DWI felony. An experienced Waynesville felony DUI defense lawyer can help lower the severity of the charge and limit the potential punishment.
Misdemeanor charges are by far the most common DUI violations, but there are a handful of DUI-related felony charges that you might encounter. There are several factors that the prosecution will need to prove if they want these upgraded charges to stick. Our Waynesville felony DUI defense lawyers have an in-depth understanding of these factors and how to question their validity.
There are three different criteria that can cause a standard DUI violation to become a felony. If we can discredit these criteria, then we can ensure that your DUI charge remains a misdemeanor without significant prison time.
The first of these factors is your history of DUI violations. If you are a repeat offender within a specific time frame, then the charge will automatically be upgraded to a felony. Unfortunately, this criteria is incredibly difficult to discredit because it is a matter of your criminal record. There is no way to deny previous convictions so we must focus on discrediting the current conviction.
The second factor is whether one or more people were seriously injuried when you committed the violation. The person needs to have suffered a serious injury as a direct result of your DUI violation.
The third and final factor is whether one or more people were killed when you committed the violation. Once again, the prosecution needs to prove that the death is a direct result of your DUI violation.
These three factors create a total of 5 different DUI-related felonies in the state of North Carolina. These charges include serious prison time, a lifetime of fines, and your license will almost always be revoked for several years.
This is the most common factor that can escalate a misdemeanor DUI charge to a serious felony. North Carolina legislature is tough on repeat DUI offenders. If you have been charged with 3 DUI violations during the last ten years, then you are at the felony threshold. A fourth offense within that ten-year period will automatically become a felony charge.
Habitual DWI charges are categorized as a Class F felony. This is one of the lowest felony classes and has lighter punishments by comparison. But do not let that fool you into thinking it is only a minor inconvenience. It is still a felony charge and if you are found guilty it will negatively affect you for the rest of your life.
The punishment for a habitual DWI violation includes a significant fine and a jail term of at least 12 months. A habitual DWI felony is treated similarly to a Level 1 misdemeanor in that the judge is unable to suspend the minimum sentence. Anyone found guilty of this charge will spend at least 12 months in prison.
If you are found guilty, then you will also have your license revoked permanently. Other DUI felonies include a revocation period of at least 4 years. The habitual DWI violation is the only felony that guarantees your license will be permanently revoked.
Most people who are charged with habitual DWI felonies were driving on a suspended license. If that is the case for your charge, then your vehicle will be seized by the state at the time of your arrest. It may still be possible to reclaim the vehicle at a later date if you are not found guilty of the charges.
There are 4 more DUI-related felony charges in the state of North Carolina. These charges involve a secondary crime that occurs during the same time as the DUI violation. They all include a license revocation period of at least 4 years and prison time that can last more than 10 years.
Felony death by vehicle occurs when a driver is intoxicated and causes the death of one or more people. The prison sentence can range from 38 months to 160 months depending on the circumstances of the crime. This charge carries the largest potential prison sentence of the various DUI-related felonies.
For death by vehicle to become a felony charge it must be shown that you were operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident. If we can show the court that the death occurred for a different reason, then it can be demoted to a misdemeanor crime. The potential punishment for a misdemeanor death by vehicle is much shorter.
If you cause serious injury rather than death, then you will face a much lighter charge of felony serious injury by vehicle. Felony death by vehicle is a Class D felony while felony serious injury by vehicle is only a class F felony. It still includes substantial fines and prison time as well as license revocation.
When you commit multiple violations within a short period the resulting felony charges may be upgraded to aggravated felony charges. If you have a previous DUI violation within the last seven years, then you will be charged with an aggravated felony. The minimum prison time for this charge is almost twice as long as the standard felony.
The rules are the same as an aggravated felony death by vehicle. Any DUI-related charges within the last seven years will cause this felony to be upgraded. The major difference between this and a standard felony is the minimum prison sentence.
At Doug Edwards Law, we work every day with clients who are being wrongly accused in the North Carolina justice system. Many of our clients are hard-working locals who were wrongly stopped, tested, and arrested.
Everyone in Waynesville has a right to legal representation when facing these types of charges. If you want to fight charges, then you need DUI defense attorneys who understand how the prosecution thinks. You need defense attorneys like Doug Edwards.
Call our staff today at (828) 702-8743 for a free case evaluation.