North Carolina DWI laws allow for felony DWI charges pursuant to N.C.G.S. 20-138.5. That is often referred to as “habitual driving while impaired.”
It’s important to note, habitual DUI is technically different from sentencing as an “A1 DWI” offender pursuant to Laura’s Law.
In certain aspects, they are related, especially regarding considering prior convictions for impaired driving.
Laura’s Law is in some ways more expansive in nature. Three or more grossly aggravating factors is the defining feature of Laura’s Law where multiple prior convictions within 10 years is the delineating factor of habitual impaired driving – Danny Glover, OBX DWI Lawyer
What is Habitual Impaired Driving?
Habitual DWI charges differ from other habitual charges in North Carolina such as habitual felon. You may have heard of “three strikes” laws across the country. Those are separate and distinct from the habitual DWI law in NC.
The essential elements of felony DWI in NC are:
- Conviction on presently pending DWI charges in violation of N.C.G.S. 20-138.1 AND
- THREE (3) or more prior convictions of impaired driving as defined in 20-4.01(24a)
- Within ten (10) years of the offense date of the presently pending DWI charges
It’s important to note N.C.G.S. 20-4.01(24a) is intended to be broadly read and interpreted. Prior DWI charges are not limited to North Carolina offenses alone.
A conviction for similar or related “drunk driving” charges such as DUI, OUI, driving under the influence, operating while impaired, driving while abilities impaired, etc., would likely qualify as a “prior conviction” under the NC Habitual DWI statute.
The State of North Carolina is required to prove the prima facie elements of criminal charges Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. That includes convictions for DUI, DWI, and/or OWI.
The person accused of habitual DWI has no duty to disprove a conviction for impaired driving.
Related Legal Issues: DWI – Driving While Impaired
- DWI Laws in NC
- What Happens When You Get a DWI
- DWI Sentencing in North Carolina
- Felony Serious Injury by Vehicle
- Felony Death by Vehicle
Laura’s Law: NC Sentencing for DWI Charges
Named in memory of Laura Fortenberry, Laura’s Law substantially increases the maximum period of incarceration for misdemeanor impaired driving in North Carolina.
Prior to the implementation of the law, the maximum prison term was 2 years as a Level 1 DWI and up to a $4,000 fine. For offenses that take place on or after the 1st of December, 2011, the maximum prison sentence for misdemeanor DWI charges is now 3 years (36 months) and up to a $10,000 fine.
Depending on the individual facing DWI charges, and the fact-patern associated with their case, sentencing under Laura’s Law in North Carolina can be more consequential than a conviction of felony driving while impaired – Danny Glover, Outer Banks Lawyer
Laura’s Law created the new sentencing category of A1 or “aggravated level one” DWI punishment, amending N.C.G.S. 20-179.
Rather than focusing solely of prior convictions, as is the case with felony habitual impaired driving, sentencing as an A1 DWI takes into consideration all “grossly aggravating factors” broadly described as:
- Prior convictions for DWI
- Active license suspension/revocation for DWI
- Minor / Children / Disabled Persons in Vehicle at the time of the offense
- An accident resulting in serious injury due to impaired driving
As a Level A1 DWI offender, there is a required minimum term in prison of 12 months. A defendant sentenced to misdemeanor A1 DWI is specifically deemed, “not eligible for parole.”
Continuous Alcohol Monitoring or “CAM” is also mandated as a condition of post-release supervision.
Outer Banks Criminal Defense Lawyers: Danny Glover
If you’ve Googled “Lawyers Near Me Outer Banks” and face criminal charges involving impaired driving, Danny Glover is available for legal consultation.
Our law firm is dedicated to trial advocacy and courtroom skills. Danny Glover is an OBX DWI lawyer with substantial experience handling serious felony and misdemeanor charges.
The consultation is free of charge and confidential.