Charged with a DWI? Now What?

Even if it’s your first DWI offense in North Carolina, you could be facing possible jail time, a suspension of your driving privileges, drastically increased insurance premiums, an ignition interlock device, probation, alcohol counseling and a fine of up to $4,000, depending on the circumstance. You definitely need to hire an experienced North Carolina DWI attorney to help you.

In North Carolina, DWI stands for “driving while impaired” and means the operation of a vehicle after the consumption of drugs, alcohol or other intoxicants. The Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit in the state is 0.08%.

If you’re pulled over for suspected DWI and have a North Carolina driver’s license, then you have already given “implied consent” to take a blood or alcohol test. If you refuse the blood or alcohol test, then you may lose your driver’s license for up to 1 year.

You’ve Been Arrested for DWI: What Comes Next?

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After you get arrested and charged with driving while impaired, you will lose your license for 30 days if you refused the chemical analysis test, or if you had a BAC of .08 or higher. You may be eligible for pretrial limited driving privileges after 10 days. It is fairly complicated and more expensive to get this, so you should speak to a lawyer who handles North Carolina DWIs about this.  This limited driving privilege will allow you to drive, mainly or solely for work, during the remainder of the 30-day suspension. Regardless, at the end of the 30 days, you may be able to get your license back after payment of a $100 reinstatement fee.

At this point, it’s probably a good idea to hire an attorney. A DWI offense is very serious and you’ll need an attorney to guide you through the process. Hiring a DWI attorney will increase your chances of a lighter punishment, reduction of charges or possible possible dismissal or not guilty verdict.

DWI Sentencing in North Carolina

North Carolina has six different sentencing levels, increasing from less to more severe. If you’re convicted of DWI, a sentencing hearing takes place to determine the level of severity based on grossly aggravating and mitigating factors.

Grossly Aggravating factors could include:

  • Prior DWI conviction within 7 years
  • The offense resulted in serious injury to another
  • A child under the age of 18 was in the vehicle
  • DWI during license revocation for prior DWI

Now, let’s break down each sentencing level. Keep in mind that a DWI attorney, if unable to beat the DWI, can still work to help reduce your sentence significantly.

Aggravated Level One

This is the most severe DWI level and will occur if the judge finds that 3 or more grossly aggravating factors involved. Punishment for this level could mean a fine up to $10,000 and imprisonment of between 12-36 months.  You can only (possibly) get probation after serving a minimum, mandatory 120 day jail term. You must then not drink for 120 days and be monitored by a CAM (Continuous Alcohol Monitor) device and participate in substance abuse assessment and education.

Level One

For this sentencing, the judge must find that there are 2 grossly aggravating factors involved, or that a passenger under the age of 18 was in the vehicle at the time of the offense.  Punishment for this level could be a $4,000 fine and a jail time between 1-24 month. A reduction of jail time to no less than 10 days is possible if you use a CAM device for 120 days.

Level Two

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This level requires that the judge find that there was one grossly aggravating factor. You may face fines up to $2,000 and sentenced between 7 days and 1 year in jail. Suspension of jail time may occur by using a CAM device for 90 days.

Level Three

At this level, the judge must find that there were no grossly aggravating factors and that aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating factors. You may face fines of up to $1,000 and up to 6 months in jail.  Jail time can be suspended if you serve 72 hours in jail or perform 72 hours of community service.

Level Four

At this level, the judge must find that there were any aggravating factors are equal to any mitigating factors involved. You could face up to $500 in fines and jail time up to 120 days. Suspension of jail time may occur if you serve 48 hours or perform 48 hours of community service.

Level Five

This is the least severe level in which the judge must find that the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating factors involved. At this level, you may face fines up to $200 and jail time up to 60 days.  Suspension of jail time may occur if you spend 24 hours in jail or perform 24 hours of community service.

What Can a DWI Attorney Do For You?

You risk very negative and expensive results if you try to navigate our complicated DWI system yourself. It’s important you hire an experienced criminal law attorney to examine your case and make strategic decisions on how to beat or reduce the charges, or to figure out how to get your punishment reduced as much as possible.

The first thing an attorney will do is evaluate the details of your case and advise you whether you should plead guilty. If there were procedural mistakes made by the police or lack of evidence, your attorney may decide to pursue a “not guilty” verdict at trial or a dismissal of the charges before or during trial via a Motion to Suppress or Motion to Dismiss.

After a conviction for driving while impaired, a DWI attorney can help bargain for a lighter sentence. This can be very beneficial if a plea of guilty will result in lengthy jail time.

Navigating the DWI Process

Obviously, the best way to avoid a DWI is to never drink and drive. Unfortunately, that’s not a reality.  Many people don’t realize that they are over the limit and then end up behind bars. A DWI charge is something you’ll have to deal with for a long time and the cost can be extremely high. A good attorney can be an invaluable resource.

The Glover Law Firm represents individuals in all of northeastern North Carolina, including Elizabeth City, Edenton the entire Outer Banks, and the surrounding areas. Contact us today for an initial confidential and free consultation.