In North Carolina, a felony DWI is the most serious of all DWI charges. The felony-level DWI charge isn’t called a “felony DWI” in North Carolina. Instead, there are five levels of DWI charges, ranked in order of severity. Level One and Level Two DWI charges are the most serious DWI offenses and would be considered felony DWI charges in other states. In nearly all cases, Level One and Level Two DWI charges carry over one year of prison time.
Protect Yourself By Talking to a Skilled Felony DWI Lawyer
When it comes to felony DWI charges, the question isn’t whether you’ll go to jail, it’s for how long you’ll go to jail. If you’ve been charged with a Level One or Level Two DWI in North Carolina, we recommend discussing your case with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. If you’re convicted, you risk significant jail time, heavy fines, and a criminal record. Contact the experienced felony DWI lawyers at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, to schedule your initial consultation
What Constitutes a Felony DWI in North Carolina?
In North Carolina, prosecutors can charge a DWI as a felony when a person drives while impaired and has been convicted of 3 or more DWI charges within ten years of the date of the current offense. Suppose a driver is pulled over and arrested for a DWI. The driver has been convicted of 3 DWIs within ten years of being pulled over. In this case, the prosecutor will charge him with habitual DWI, which is punished as a Class F felony.
If the driver is convicted, the court must sentence him to a minimum active term of 12 months in prison, which can’t be suspended. Additionally, a person convicted of habitual DWI in North Carolina will have his or her driver’s license permanently revoked.
The Penalties For Felony DWI Are Harsh in North Carolina
North Carolina prosecutors take felony DWI cases seriously. A felony, or habitual, DWI conviction carries much more severe consequences than a misdemeanor DWI conviction. Those convicted of felony DWI will receive at least a year in prison with no room for negotiation or suspension. Defendants will also face extremely high fines, mandatory alcohol or substance abuse counseling programs, and a driver’s license revocation.
Additionally, a felony DWI conviction will remain on the person’s driving record for life. Judges are not allowed to suspend the minimum sentence for a defendant who’s been charged with a felony DWI. Unlike with less serious DWI charges, your lawyer will not be able to negotiate a better sentence for you. For this reason, it’s crucial that you start working with a skilled criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Building a strong legal defense to avoid a conviction is the best strategy when facing felony DWI charges.
Motor Vehicle Seizure in Felony DWI Cases
In North Carolina, the court must take away a habitual or a felony DWI offender’s vehicle. The law enforcement official who arrests the allegedly drunk driver has a right to seize the driver’s car for driving on a revoked or suspended license from a prior DWI charge. Seizure of the defendant’s vehicle takes place at the time of arrest, not after the trial. As a result, you could lose your vehicle after you’re arrested and not be able to obtain it until you’re found to be “not guilty.”
If the court finds the defendant guilty after the trial, the court will order law enforcement to forfeit the defendant’s vehicle. In North Carolina, the school board will keep the proceeds after selling the defendant’s vehicle. Or, the state can keep the vehicle and use it for its own purposes. The only way for the owner to get the vehicle back is if he or she was not convicted of a DWI and the courts are satisfied that the driver was an innocent party.
Underage Drivers and Felony DWI
As with other states, North Carolina has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drunk driving. A driver under the legal drinking age of 21 cannot have any traces of drugs or alcohol in his or her system while driving. If the driver does, he or she will face a 30-day trial driver’s license revoke action. When an underage driver refuses to take a urine or blood alcohol test, the law enforcement officer can charge the driver with a DWI if the officer smells alcohol on the driver’s breath.
Defenses to Felony DWI Charges in North Carolina
Due to the strict sentencing guidelines for felony DWI charges, the best way to protect your rights is to defend yourself assertively before you’re convicted. North Carolina courts are strict when it comes to repeat DWI offenders. At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, our felony DWI lawyers will prepare the best legal defense possible based on the unique facts of your case. The following are some of the most commonly used defenses in felony DWI cases:
- The police officer didn’t read you your Miranda Rights
- The police officer didn’t have enough reasonable suspicion to pull you over
- The police officer didn’t have probable cause to place you under arrest
- The police officer wasn’t trained and authorized to administer a breathalyzer test
- The police officers evidence was based on non-standard DWI tests
- You have a medical condition that mimics impairment by alcohol
- The breathalyzer machine malfunctioned
Contact an Experienced Felony DWI Lawyer in North Carolina
In North Carolina, Level 1 or Level 2 DWI charges are equivalent to felony DWI charges in other states. If you’re convicted of a felony DWI in North Carolina, you’ll face consequences beyond jail time and heavy fines. With a felony conviction on his record, you may lose your job and have trouble finding gainful employment. You can also have difficulty purchasing a home or a firearm. Have you been charged with a felony DWI in North Carolina? Contact Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, as soon as possible. The sooner you have an attorney by your side, the better.