DWI, often referred to as DUI, is a serious offense. As a matter of fact, North Carolina is one of the states with the strictest DWI laws in the country. If you are arrested for a DWI offense in North Carolina, especially Habitual DWI, you have cause to be worried since in our state a felony DWI is punishable not only by a mandatory prison sentence but by hefty fines and the possibility of permanent loss of your driver’s license. If you find yourself in the troubling situation of being faced with DWI charges, you should do yourself a favor and contact Hancock Law Firm, where competence and compassion go hand in hand. Lead criminal defense attorney, Joel Hancock, will fight vigorously for your freedom and the preservation of your reputation.
Punishment For DWI Offenses in North Carolina
Although the state designates various levels of severity for driving while impaired, even if you are charged with a lesser offense, it is always wise to have a strong DWI attorney at your side when fighting DWI charges. Depending on the particular circumstances of your DWI case, punishment for your DWI can vary greatly, from fines and community service to mandatory jail or prison time.
Factors Affecting DWI Punishment
In North Carolina, there are many levels of DWI punishment. In determining your punishment, the sentencing judge will weigh aggravating and mitigating factors relating to your case.
Aggravating Factors include:
- Driving with a revoked or suspended license (Being revoked for a previous DWI is considered a “Grossly Aggravating Factor” or GAF)
- Being a repeat offender (Prior DWI within 7 years = GAF)
- Especially reckless or dangerous driving
- Transporting a child while impaired (GAF)
- Causing serious injury in a collision while impaired
- Driving with an extremely elevated blood alcohol concentration (BAC), usually 0.15 percent or higher
Mitigating Factors include:
- Slight impairment (BAC of .08 or .09)
- Safe and lawful driving (except for the impairment)
- A safe driving record
- Impairment caused by lawfully prescribed drugs taken within the prescribed dosage
DWI Punishment Levels
Aggravated Level 1: Must be imposed if there are 3 or more grossly aggravating factors
Jail: Maximum sentence of 36 months
Fine: Up to $10,000
Level 1: Must be imposed if there are two grossly aggravating factors OR if there was a child in the car at the time of the offense
Jail: Maximum sentence of 24 months
Fine: Up to $4,000
Level 2: Must be imposed if there is one grossly aggravating factor
Jail: Up to 12 months
Fine: Up to $2,000
Level 3: Imposed if aggravating factors outweigh mitigating factors
Jail: Up to 6 months
Fine: Up to $1,000
Level 4: Imposed if mitigating and aggravating factors are equal
Jail: Up to 120 days
Fine: Up to $500
Level 5: Imposed if mitigating factors outweigh aggravating factors
Jail: Up to 60 days
Fine: Up to $60
Habitual DWI: People charged with DWI in NC may also be charged with Habitual DWI if they have at least three previous convictions for DWI within 10 years prior to the date of the current offense. Habitual DWI is charged as a Class F Felony and results in a permanent revocation of the defendant’s license.
Jail: 12 to 59 months in prison,
Zero Tolerance Policies in North Carolina
North Carolina laws are especially unforgiving of those who have commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) or are under the age of 21. For these individuals or for drivers of school buses or other childcare vehicles, even first offense convictions result in harsh penalties.
It should be noted that driving while impaired by drugs (whether illegal, prescribed, or over-the-counter) is as illegal as driving while impaired by alcohol. Also, refusing to take a breathalyzer, blood or urine test to determine your degree of intoxication or impairment may result in the loss of your driver’s license for 1 year, even if you are found not guilty. This action may be taken because, in North Carolina as elsewhere in the U.S., being a driver is legally interpreted to mean that you have given “implied consent” to have your sobriety tested whenever you’re believed to have committed an “implied consent offense” like Driving While Impaired or Open Container.
What is Reasonable Suspicion in NC DWI?
In North Carolina, reasonable suspicion for DWI means an officer has specific, articulable facts, not just a hunch, suggesting you’re driving under the influence. Examples include swerving in traffic, driving suspiciously late at night near bars, or exhibiting red eyes and slurred speech. If there’s not enough evidence, a stop could be deemed unlawful, potentially impacting your DWI case.
What Hancock Law Firm Can Do To Help
As most of us are aware, a conviction for a DWI offense, quite apart from the legal consequences it may bring, can have other negative impacts — on employment opportunities, ability to obtain or retain professional licenses, educational financial aid, civil rights (e.g. the right to vote, the right to own a gun), reputation, and even relationships. This is why it is crucial to have an experienced DWI attorney like Joel Hancock representing you. Joel will provide you with individualized attention and concern, focusing on the best possible strategy to use in your defense. Besides his excellent credentials, he has successfully defended thousands of clients whose testimonials speak of his efficient, effective, and empathic defense.
Contact Our Carteret County DWI Defense Lawyer
The biggest mistake you can make if you’re arrested for DWI is trying to talk your way out of the situation without a savvy DWI attorney at your side. Joel Hancock has a number of defense tactics at the ready and will quickly be able to decide which will work best for your case. He may question:
- The reason you were pulled over in the first place
- Whether you were illegally profiled because of your race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or country of origin
- What the evidence of intoxication or impairment was
- Whether devices used were defective and/or when they were last calibrated
- Whether BAC samples may have been mishandled, mislabeled or contaminated
- What part external factors may have played in your driving behavior (other drivers, pedestrians, animals or road obstacles, bad weather conditions
- Whether you have a medical condition that could have caused behavior or physical symptoms that mimic intoxication
Joel Hancock will always be on your side, presuming you are innocent and fighting to have you treated justly and respectfully. If you have been arrested for DWI, Call Hancock. As soon as you connect with our office, you will know that you have taken the right step. Contact us for a FREE consultation!