Driving While Intoxicated

Don’t Sleep in Your Vehicle When Intoxicated

When you’re out and you’ve had a few drinks, you likely know that you shouldn’t get behind the wheel of a car and drive. In an effort to be safe and protect yourself and others, you may make the decision to sleep in your car until you sober up. However, while this may be a safer option, it’s still not legal. 

You may be surprised to learn that you don’t actually need to be driving a vehicle in order to be charged with DWI (driving while intoxicated) in North Carolina. 

State DWI Laws 

In North Carolina, in order to be found guilty of drunk driving, an individual must be operating a vehicle. But what specifically does it mean to “operate” one? Under state law, an operator is “a person in actual physical control of a vehicle which is in motion or which has the engine running.” Even if the vehicle is parked, if the engine is running someone can be charged with DWI – even if they are asleep. For instance, if it’s wintertime and you decide to sleep in the back seat of your car but you turn the car on solely for the heat, you could still be charged with DWI. However, if you are asleep in the back seat of your car but you do not turn the engine on, you may have a solid defense against DWI since you can argue that you were not operating the vehicle. 

So What Should You Do Instead?

If you have been drinking it’s best not to sleep it off in your vehicle. Instead, try calling a friend or family member to come and pick you up. Alternatively, you can call a rideshare company, such as Uber or Lyft, to come and get you. Another possibility is to ask the host (if you are at someone’s house) if you can stay the night. If for whatever reason you have no choice but to sleep in your car, always do so in the back seat. But before you do, place the keys in the glove compartment, under the front seat, or in the trunk. 

The Attorneys at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Help Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with DWI

If you or a loved one has been charged with DWI, it can be extremely overwhelming – especially if you had no intention of driving. A conviction for DWI can have an immense impact on many aspects of your life. That is why it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. 

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you to fight these charges and obtain the best possible outcome. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Posted in DWI
Police lights

Levels of DWI in North Carolina

Driving is inherently dangerous, so driving while impaired (DWI) is even riskier – and illegal. In North Carolina, there are six different levels of misdemeanor convictions if you are found to be DWI: levels 1A, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. The first three levels (1A, 1, and 2) are the most serious, while the remaining three are less serious. The level that you are charged with is dependent upon the specific facts of your case. 

Aggravating Factors

The first thing that a court will look at is whether there is at least one grossly aggravating factor. This could include any one of the following:

  1. Prior conviction for DWI within seven years of the date of the present DWI. 
  2. The driver was driving on a license that was revoked for another alcohol-related offense
  3. The driver charged caused a serious injury to another person at the time of the offense
  4. The defendant committed the DWI while one of the following individuals was in his vehicle:
    1. A child under the age of 18
    2. A person with the mental development of a child under the age of 18
    3. A person with a physical disability preventing them from exiting the vehicle without assistance

In determining the level of a DWI, the following holds true:

  • One grossly aggravating factor equates to a level 2.
  • Two factor is a level 1.
  • Three or more factors constitute the most serious level: 1A.
  • Without any grossly aggravating factors, the level is 3, 4, or 5. This is determined by balancing the aggravating factors against any mitigating factors.
    • If aggravating factors outweigh mitigating factors, the DWI is a level 3.
    • If the aggravating and mitigating factors counterbalance themselves, this is a level 4.
    • If the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating factors, the DWI is a level 5.

Mitigating factors include:

  • Slight impairment of the defendant’s faculties resulting solely from alcohol, and an alcohol concentration that did not exceed 0.09.

 

  • Slight impairment of the defendant’s faculties, resulting solely from alcohol, with no chemical analysis having been available to the defendant.

 

  • Driving at the time of the offense was safe and lawful except for the impairment of the defendant’s faculties.

 

  • A safe driving record, with the defendant’s having no conviction for any motor vehicle offense for which at least four points are assigned or for which the person’s license is subject to revocation within five years of the date of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced.

 

  • Impairment of the defendant’s faculties caused primarily by a lawfully prescribed drug for an existing medical condition, and the amount of the drug taken was within the prescribed dosage.

 

  • The defendant’s voluntary submission to a mental health facility for assessment after being charged with the impaired driving offense for which the defendant is being sentenced, and, if recommended by the facility, voluntary participation in the recommended treatment. (6a) Completion of a substance abuse assessment, compliance with its recommendations, and simultaneously maintaining 60 days of continuous abstinence from alcohol consumption, as proven by a continuous alcohol monitoring system. The continuous alcohol monitoring system shall be of a type approved by the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice of the Department of Public Safety.

 

  • Any other factor that mitigates the seriousness of the offense.

The Attorneys at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Help Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with a DWI

A conviction for DWI can have a significant impact on your life. That’s why it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. 

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you fight these charges and obtain the best possible outcome for you. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

beer cans

What to Know About Fake IDs and Underage Drinking in North Carolina

The law is clear surrounding the purchase of alcohol and those who fail to adhere to it will be punished. This is the job of Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) agents. They are responsible for investigating, citing, and at times arresting individuals who commit criminal offenses concerning the sale of alcohol and other offenses related to public health and safety. This includes the sale of alcohol to minors (those under the legal age for consumption of alcoholic beverages). Oftentimes ALE agents will partner with local law enforcement officers. 

Criminal Citations Fake IDs, Underage Drinking and Sales

ALE agents may also investigate potential fake IDs. When a fake ID is suspected, ALE agents or police officers may investigate. Unfortunately, fake IDs are common among high school and college students, who purchase them online or are given them by a friend. When a fake ID is confirmed, the individual who tried to use it will receive a criminal citation for possession of the fake ID, possession of alcohol while underage, or furnishing alcohol to minors.

A Qualified North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

Those who receive such a citation may feel overwhelmed and not know what to do. That’s where a knowledgeable and qualified North Carolina criminal defense attorney can make a difference. The right lawyer will help to negotiate with the District Attorney on your case and try to have the citation dismissed and expunged from public records. 

It’s important to understand that even if a case is dismissed it will still appear on background checks resulting in questions surrounding your record when you go to do something such as apply for a job. However, once it’s expunged it will be erased. Once a citation is dismissed, a lawyer can work on having it expunged from your criminal record.

Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Helps Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with a Crime

A criminal conviction in North Carolina can have a very long-lasting impact on your life. Not only can it affect your ability to obtain or keep certain jobs, but also it can have a permanent impact on your reputation. 

Fake IDs and underage drinking is a reality for many students, but such a mistake should not have to impact your future. That’s why it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you fight these charges and obtain the best possible outcome for you and your future. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Posted in DWI
drinking and driving

3 Tips to Avoid Driving While Intoxicated

Drunk driving is one of the biggest errors in judgment that someone can make. While people generally never plan to drive while under the influence of alcohol, poor planning often results in a false belief that the person will be able to get themselves home after drinking. Many people in this situation fail to consider that there are a lot of other ways that they can get home safely without getting behind the wheel of a car. For many people who drive drunk, the choice to do so would never be made when they were sober. 

Luckily, there are things that can be done while sober to help avoid making a potentially life-altering and dangerous decision. Here are 3 tips to avoid driving while intoxicated.

1. Stay over someone else’s place. 

Rather than worry about how you are going to get home after drinking, you can plan on not having to go home at all. Whether you make plans to stay at the house where you were drinking, go home with someone else who has not been drinking, or stay at a hotel within walking distance of the bar, you won’t have to even think twice about driving. 

2. Give a friend your keys.

If you don’t know how much you plan on drinking but are concerned that it could be too much to drive, it’s always good to get the opinion of someone whom you trust. You can give your keys to a friend, party host, or bartender, so that when you decide it’s time to go home, they can decide whether you need an alternate way of getting there safely. 

3. Have a designated driver

Lastly, one of the most common options for avoiding getting behind the wheel while drunk is to have a designated driver. A designated driver is someone whom you will agree upon ahead of time, who will not be drinking, and can therefore be responsible for driving you home safely. This could be someone who can’t drink for medical reasons or who doesn’t care to drink – or this could simply be someone different in your group each time, who takes turns not drinking each time you go out. 

You should always plan ahead whenever alcohol may be involved. However, if you fail to do so and have made the unfortunate decision to drive while intoxicated and are now charged with a DUI, it’s important that you seek a knowledgeable and experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney who can help. 

Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Helps Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with a Crime

A criminal conviction in North Carolina can have a very long-lasting impact on your life. Not only can it affect your ability to obtain or keep certain jobs, but also it can have a permanent impact on your reputation. 

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to obtain the best possible outcome for you. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Posted in DWI
Police officer stopping blonde woman for DWI.

Can You Get a DWI in a Self-Driving Vehicle?

The idea of “self-driving” vehicles is extremely exciting, like something out of a sci-fi movie. They allow the driver to sit back while the car operates by itself when in self-driving mode. Many are under the impression that “self-driving” vehicles do all the work, allowing you to do what you please while in the car. But what many do not know is that self-driving vehicles are not entirely autonomous; they still require the operator of the vehicle to take control of the wheel when necessary, such as in the case of an emergency. 

Unfortunately, several drivers in North Carolina have been pulled over by police officers because they were asleep behind the wheel while the autonomous vehicle was in motion. All of these individuals were charged with driving under the influence

Physical Control of the Vehicle

Although the vehicle operates on its own, a person must turn it on and off. Driving under the influence requires that the individual had physical control of the vehicle. Therefore prosecutors will often leverage circumstantial evidence in order to prove that the individual turned on the vehicle before the self-driving feature was activated. Such circumstantial evidence may include:

  • The individual is sitting in the driver’s seat
  • The keys are in the ignition
  • The engine is operating
  • The tires are warm to the touch
  • The vehicle is on a road or on the side of a road

Police Officers Require Reasonable Suspicion

However, it is important to point out that unless the vehicle is stopped at a roadside checkpoint, police officers must have reasonable suspicion in order to pull over the driver. When an individual is asleep behind the wheel this serves as reasonable suspicion enough to make a traffic stop. 

Generally speaking though, if the operator of a self-driving vehicle (that has the self-driving feature turned on) is awake and the vehicle is not moving in a reckless or questionable manner, police officers do not have reasonable suspicion to pull them over and therefore cannot issue them a citation. 

Attorney Joel Hancock at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Helps Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with a DWI

When you have been pulled over – regardless of the type of vehicle that you are driving – and charged with a DWI, it can have a very long-lasting impact on your life. Not only can it affect your ability to obtain or keep certain jobs, but also it can have a permanent impact on your reputation. That’s why it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. 

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you fight these charges. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Posted in DWI
Hancock Law Firm discusses what you should know when taking a BAC test in North Carolina.

Taking a BAC Test in North Carolina

Unfortunately, sometimes people make a big error in judgment when they decide to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08. When someone is pulled over under the suspicion of drunk driving, the officer may ultimately choose to administer either a breath or a blood test. But do you have a choice?

BAC Tests

Even though the Breathalyzer test is the most commonly utilized test for determining an individual’s BAC, in North Carolina, there are three different ways to legally do so. These include:

  • Blood – Blood tests are the most accurate of the three types of BAC tests, although there still exists the possibility of invalidating your personal test itself due to mistakes/errors. 
  • Breath – In this type of test, an officer utilizes a portable device called a Breathalyzer, which measures the alcohol expelled on your breath. These tests are generally accurate. 
  • Urine – The least accurate of the three tests is a urine test, which should only be used when the other two methods are unavailable. Alcohol often takes up to two hours to show up in your urine, and can last in your system for up to 24 hours, commonly providing an inaccurate result. 

Consequences of a BAC Test Refusal

Anyone who is suspected of driving while impaired (DWI) may choose to either submit to or refuse a BAC test. 

North Carolina is an “implied consent” state, meaning that if a driver refuses to take a test, he or she will incur additional penalties. If you refuse to submit to the test, you may be subject to consequences including a one-year license suspension. Unfortunately, an individual does not have the right to choose which test they would like administered; only the officer can select that. 

Drivers who are taken to the police station may be subjected to a chemical breath test. If the officer wants you to take a blood test, you may be transported to a local hospital so that an authorized person may do so. 

Hancock Law Firm Helps Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Accused of Driving While Impaired

If you or a loved one has been accused of driving while impaired in North Carolina, you should take the steps necessary to protect your rights. A DWI conviction can have a serious impact on your life from your professional life to your personal life, to your freedoms. That is why it is so important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced North Carolina Criminal Law Attorney with experience fighting DWI charges. The attorneys at Hancock Law Firm can help. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Posted in DWI
Hancock Law Firm gives an overview of open container laws in North Carolina.

Open Container Laws in North Carolina

Although you are likely aware of the illegality of drinking and driving, you may not be as familiar with the illegality of transporting an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of a vehicle. People in a car that is parked are still in violation of the law. Whether or not you are 21 and allowed to consume alcoholic beverages is irrelevant to the law.  

A driver may not necessarily be charged; only the individual who possesses or consumes the alcoholic beverage will be charged. It is important to note that this is not a strict liability law, which means that in order for you to be convicted, you must have been in possession of alcohol and have consumed it. The law also applies to motorcycles, ATVs, golf carts, and commercial vehicles (unless they have a specific permit). There are a few exemptions to this law such as:

  • Taxis
  • Limousines
  • Living Quarters of Recreational Vehicles
  • Motor Homes
  • Other Vehicles for Hire

What is an Open Container?

Under North Carolina law, a container of alcohol is considered to be open if its seal is broken or if the alcohol has been in any way removed (i.e. an empty bottle of alcohol). It is not illegal to travel with closed containers (e.g. bottles or cans that have not been opened). 

Open containers may, however, be transported in areas of the vehicle that are not easily accessed such as the trunk – even if the trunk is still accessible from the passenger area (such as in a hatchback vehicle).

Those in North Carolina who are charged and convicted of an open container violation will face a class 3 misdemeanor for the first offense, which carries a fine of up to $200 and up to 20 days in jail. The punishments increase for any subsequent offenses to $1,000 and 60 days respectively. 

Those who are pulled over with an open container may also be suspected of driving while impaired and may be asked to submit to a breath test to determine their Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). You can be charged (and convicted) for an open container violation as well as a DWI.

Defending Yourself from An Open Container Conviction

There are potential defenses to an open container charge including how the stop was conducted and how the evidence was discovered. Warrantless searches, lack of reasonable suspicion for stopping your vehicle, and lack of probable cause may also be defenses. At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we recognize the long-term consequences of a criminal conviction, including difficulty finding a job or getting approved for housing. That is why it is so important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney. We will work to establish defenses to your charges or even have charges dismissed altogether. To learn more about what your best options may be, or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Posted in DWI
Hancock Law Firm discusses whether or not a DWI can be considered a felony.

Can a DWI Be a Felony in North Carolina?

In the state of North Carolina, when it comes to driving while impaired, most offenses are misdemeanors. But despite only being a misdemeanor, the consequences of such a conviction can still be severe. It can result in a substantial fine, suspension of your license, and even jail time. And if that isn’t bad enough, a felony DWI charge is even more serious.  

In What Cases Can a DWI be a Felony in NC?

You can be charged with a DWI in North Carolina if you have a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher. This is also the case if you have any amount of alcohol in your system and you are below the age of 21. A DWI doesn’t only relate to alcohol but is also applicable to prescription drugs and controlled substances. In this situation, the officer will judge your impairment based upon your performance on field sobriety tests. 

You can be charged with felony DWI in North Carolina if your circumstances include either of the following:

  • DWI-Related Fatalities – You may be charged with a DWI felony if you are alleged to be responsible for killing someone in an accident that was caused because you were under the influence. 
  • Repeat Drunk Driving Offenses – A DWI-related felony occurs if you are considered to be a habitual DWI offender under North Carolina law. Any subsequent drunk driving charges after that determination will be classified as a felony offense. A habitual DWI offender is someone who has three or more DWI offense convictions within the last 10 years. This also includes DWIs for individuals under the age of 21 and those who are convicted of DWI due to drugs.

The consequences of a felony DWI conviction are dependent upon the class of the felony:

  • Class B2 Felony – When considering the facts of your criminal history, those who commit death by vehicle may be found guilty of a Class B2 Felony. This is punishable by 94 to 393 months in prison.
  • Class D Felony – When considering the facts of your criminal history, those who commit death by vehicle may be found guilty of a Class D Felony. This is punishable by 38 to 160 months in prison. 
  • Class F Felony – Those charged as a habitual offender will be classified as a Class F Felony. This is punishable by 10 to 41 months in prison. 

There are additional consequences of a DWI conviction such as payment for court costs and other fees, employment issues, and revocation of your license. 

Defenses to DWI in NC

If you have been charged with DWI in North Carolina, there are possible defenses that you may be able to raise. You may be able to argue that your BAC number is invalid because the officer did not properly administer the test or the equipment was not adequately calibrated, or you may be able to raise a defense if your constitutional rights were violated (i.e. you were not read your Miranda Rights as you should have been, invalidating any incriminating statements you may have made).

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC We Help Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with a Crime

Since the consequences of both a misdemeanor DWI and a felony DWI are severe and will have a long-lasting effect on your life, it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney. At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you fight your charge. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, fill out a contact form or contact us today!

Posted in DWI
Hancock Law Firm discusses whether or not BAC tests can be inaccurate.

Driving While Impaired Defense: Can BAC Tests Be Inaccurate?

The outcomes of many DWI cases generally rest upon blood tests. Blood tests are the most adequate gauge for determining an individual’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that we currently have. BAC can be tested through a sample of a driver’s blood, breath, or urine.

In the state of North Carolina, an individual may be charged with a DWI if their blood alcohol content tests at 0.08% or higher. There are different levels of DWI, as well as factors that can be mitigating, aggravating, and grossly aggravating. Since blood tests and BAC levels are usually the only real objective form of evidence admitted in DWI trials, these cases usually hinge upon the validity of the results.  

Multiple factors such as gender, medication, and size are relevant to an individual’s BAC level. Despite the fact that these tests are generally looked at as an authority, they are not without risk of error.  

When your BAC is tested through an appropriate breath testing device, a result of 0.08% or more usually results in an immediate temporary suspension of your license. It is important to immediately contact a local, knowledgeable Criminal Defense Attorney to begin taking steps to restore your license.

When your BAC is tested through blood or through urine, delays of six weeks or more for the results to come in are not uncommon. If they come back as you having a BAC above the legal limit, a suspension of driving privileges is then sent to the North Carolina DMV. 

You will then receive a notice to make you aware that your license has been suspended. Once you have received notice from the DMV, it is very important to call a knowledgeable Criminal Defense Attorney who has experience with DWI cases in order to challenge the validity of the testing. 

In What Ways Can BAC Tests Be Invalid?

A BAC test can be invalidated in several ways. These include the following:

1. Issues with how blood was collected

Often one of the issues that can invalidate a BAC test can occur when a technician is collecting your blood. Since technicians who are responsible for prepping the site and drawing the blood are often only provided minimal training, they may make a mistake that can have a serious effect. If a technician takes too big or too small of a sample, fails to properly clean the site of injection, or does not prep the area with alcohol swabs, an error can occur.

2. Issues with the chain of custody

An extremely important component of any criminal case that involves tangible evidence is establishing a chain of custody at all times. The prosecution is responsible for proving the chain of custody. This is the case for a blood sample. The sample’s whereabouts must be known at all times from the beginning to the end of the process. Whenever the sample changes hands, it must be recorded in great detail, down to the time and date of the transfer. If not, it’s validity can reasonably be questioned. 

3. Issues with how the sample is stored

The storage of blood samples can affect the results. Blood samples are kept in vacuum-sealed tubes that contain specific chemicals to help prevent contamination and to preserve the authenticity of the sample that was taken.  Utilizing tubes past their date of expiration and other errors can impact the results and raise questions of their validity. 

4. Issues with hospital lab testing

When an individual has been involved in an accident and has their BAC tested at a hospital, the results can often be challenged due to the fact that the hospital labs use different techniques than forensic labs. For example, hospitals usually only test blood plasma, which is more concentrated than if you were to test the whole sample. Additionally, certain serious injuries can cause lactic acid. Unfortunately, hospital tests generally can’t differentiate lactic acid from ethyl alcohol. 

5. Issues with calibration

Similar to Breathalyzers, blood-testing machines also need to be calibrated in order to be sure that they are working properly. If the machines are not properly calibrated, it can lead to error. If this is the case, results may be excluded. 

Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Helps Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with a DWI

Proving BAC testing and results to be invalid can be the difference between a conviction, which will have a huge impact on your life or an acquittal. At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we work to get you the results you deserve. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Posted in DWI