If you’ve been charged with a first-offense DWI, you may be concerned about your future. Even a first-time DWI charge can be a very serious infraction in the state of North Carolina. It’s imperative that you seek legal counsel as soon as possible from an experienced criminal defense attorney. The penalties for a first-time DWI can impact your life in many ways, from prison time to a driver’s license suspension.
Discuss Your Case With a First-Offense DWI Attorney Today
A first-time DWI offense should be taken seriously, but it doesn’t mean your life is over. Have you been charged with a first-time DWI in North Carolina? If so, call Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, as soon as possible. Attorney Joel Hancock devotes his entire legal practice to representing clients charged with DWIs, misdemeanors, and felonies in Carteret County, North Carolina.
First-Offense DWI Charges in North Carolina
In North Carolina, a person can be arrested for a first-offense DWI even if he or she isn’t under the influence of alcohol. For example, a driver who becomes intoxicated by over-the-counter drugs can face DWI charges. Under North Carolina’s DWI law, a person can be found guilty of driving while impaired if he or she operates a vehicle while:
- Under the influence of an impairing substance, or
- While having a blood alcohol content (BAC) over the legal limit, or
- With any amount of a schedule 1 controlled substance in his or her system
The legal blood alcohol limit is .08 percent for people 21 years and over. The legal BAC is .04 percent for those with a commercial driver’s license (CDL), or those driving a commercial vehicle at the time of the stop by law enforcement officers. For those under 21, having any amount of alcohol in their system while operating a motor vehicle is illegal.
Factors That Affect a First-Time DWI Charge in North Carolina
North Carolina’s DWI law isn’t straightforward. Instead, courts use multiple factors to determine the classification and sentencing of DWI charges. Courts look to numerous mitigating, aggravating, and grossly aggravating factors to decide how to punish a defendant convicted of a first-time DWI.
Mitigating factors are factors that will help the defendant face less severe sentencing. Mitigating factors include the following:
- The defendant chooses to take part in an alcohol or drug treatment program voluntarily
- The defendant’s BAC was not higher than .09 percent.
- The defendant was impaired by prescription medication
- The defendant was engaged in safe and lawful driving other than the DWI
- The defendant voluntarily submitted to a DWI assessment
- The defendant has a clean driving record for the last 5 years
Aggravating factors hurt the defendant’s case, but they are not as serious as grossly aggravating factors. In North Carolina, aggravating factors include the following:
- The defendant engaged in especially dangerous or reckless driving
- The defendant committed negligent driving that led to an accident
- The defendant was driving with a revoked driver’s license
- The defendant was attempting to evade arrest by speeding
- The defendant’s blood alcohol content was .15 percent or higher
Grossly Aggravating Factors
Grossly aggravating factors are the most serious factors that will increase the penalties faced by the defendant. Grossly aggravating factors include the following:
- A DWI conviction that occurred was in the last seven years
- Driving with a minor in the vehicle at the time of the offense
- Seriously injuring another person during the commission of the crime
- Driving with a revoked license when the license was revoked due to a DWI
First-time DWI convictions are punished on a sliding scale. Depending on the circumstances of your case, including your blood alcohol concentration level and other factors, you will be assigned a specific level of DWI sentences and punished accordingly. You may be charged with a lower-level punishment because it is your first time being charged with a DWI.
However, if aggravating or grossly aggravating factors exist, you could still face a more serious level DWI with more severe consequences. For a first-time DWI offense in North Carolina, you could face the following penalties:
- Aggravated Level One DWI- One to three years in jail, and fines reaching $10,000
- Level One DWI – 30 days to two years in jail, and fines reaching $4,000
- Level Two DWI – Seven days to one year in jail, and fines reaching $2,000
- Level Three DWI – 72 hours to six months in jail, and fines reaching $1,000
- Level Four DWI – 48 hours to 120 days in jail, and fines reaching $500
- Level Five DWI – 24 hours to 60 days in jail, and fines reaching $200
Will I Lose My Driver’s License After a First-Time DWI?
Losing your driver’s license because of a DWI conviction is one of the most disruptive penalties to a person’s everyday life. If you refuse to take a breathalyzer test when you are arrested, your license will be suspended automatically for 30 days. Regardless of the outcome of your case, it’s likely that the administrative suspension will be extended to a full year, even for a first-time DWI.
You may be able to qualify for a driving permit six months after the suspension has been served. After a DWI conviction, the court can suspend your license for an additional 60 day period to one year. It’s essential that you’re proactive and reach out to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help you try to qualify for a restricted driver’s license.
Contact a Carteret County First-Time DWI Attorney As Soon As Possible
If you’ve been charged with a first-time DWI in North Carolina, it’s crucial that you hire the right attorney to protect your rights in court. Doing so will increase the likelihood that you’ll obtain the best outcome possible. Attorney Joel Hancock has a proven track record of successfully representing clients in misdemeanor DWI cases. Contact Hancock Law Firm, PLLC today to learn more about how he can fight to protect your rights.