Driving While Impaired (DWI)

Drinking and driving

DWI in North Carolina

The State of North Carolina operates under strict drunk driving laws. Always contact a DWI lawyer when facing a DWI. North Carolina’s laws prohibit motor vehicle drivers from driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

  • Any motor vehicle driver with a 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can be charged for DWI in North Carolina.
  • Commercial driver’s license holders who are in a commercial vehicle have a legal limit of .04 percent blood alcohol concentration.
  • Additionally, North Carolina applies a zero tolerance approach for drivers under the age of 21. Despite the normal 0.08 rule, here, any amount of alcohol or drugs results in an immediate 30 day pretrial revocation and a one year suspension of their driver’s license. This occurs even if the person has a BAC of less than 0.8 percent.
  • Furthermore, if you refuse to submit to chemical testing it will result in a one year license suspension.
  • Lastly, a person may be charged with a DWI if their BAC is less than 0.08 under a theory of appreciable impairment.

When charged with a DWI offense in North Carolina, particularly a DWI in Salisbury, North Carolina, you need an experienced DWI attorney to help. Additionally an experienced DWI attorney can even help you get a limited driving privilege if you qualify. Some DWI convictions will require an ignition interlock device.

Determining the Level of Punishment for NC DWI

In order to determine the level of punishment and sentencing for DWI in North Carolina, a judge will consider your unique situation. In determining the appropriate sentence a judge must weigh the grossly aggravating factors, aggravating factors, and mitigating factors. A DWI attorney will help showcase mitigating factors and fight against aggravating factors on your behalf.

Grossly Aggravating Factors

Grossly Aggravating Factors are the most serious conditions to occur during a DWI arrest. These factors include any of the following:

  • A prior conviction of a DWI within seven years
  • The offender was driving with a revoked driver’s license and the revocation was caused by impaired driving
  • The offender causes serious injury to another person as a result of driving while impaired
  • Having a child in the car at the time of the offense

Aggravating Factors

Aggravating Factors increase the seriousness of a DWI offense but are not as serious as grossly aggravating factors. These factors include:

  • Negligent driving that causes an accident
  • Driving with a revoked license
  • Blood alcohol concentration of .15 or more
  • Reckless or dangerous driving
  • A DWI conviction that is older than 7 years

Mitigating Factors

Mitigating Factors mitigate the seriousness of a DWI offense in your favor. These factors can be:

  • Driving at the time of the DWI offense was safe and lawful except for the impairment of the defendant’s faculties
  • Slight impairment of the offender’s faculties resulting solely from alcohol and an alcohol concentration not exceeding 0.09 at any relevant time after driving or with no chemical analysis available to the defendant at the time of the DWI charge
  • A safe driving record
  • Completion of a pretrial substance abuse assessment
  • A judge can determine other factors that may mitigate the seriousness of the driving while impaired charge

A DWI attorney in North Carolina will advocate for you. Additionally, a DWI attorney will fight against aggravating factors while highlighting mitigating factors on your behalf. Stowe Law Firm will fight to get you the best result for your DWI charge in Rowan County, North Carolina.

Levels of Punishment for NC DWI

There are six DWI levels in North Carolina. A judge will determine what the appropriate level of punishment applies to your case. Additionally, a DWI lawyer in North Carolina will help you achieve the lowest punishment levels possible.

Sentencing Not Involving Grossly Aggravating Factors

  • Level 5 is the least serious level of punishment imposed for DWI. Level 5 is appropriate if the Mitigating Factors outweigh the Aggravating Factors and there are no Grossly Aggravating factors. The defendant can be sentenced to a minimum jail sentence of 24 hours. The maximum jail time is 60 days. The fine cannot exceed $200. The sentencing judge can suspend the 24-hour jail term if the driver agrees to perform 24 hours of community service. Most people sentenced as a Level 5 DWI can receive unsupervised probation.
  • Level 4 sentencing is imposed if the Mitigating Factors counterbalance the Aggravating Factors. An offender must be sentenced to a minimum jail sentence of 48 hours. The maximum jail time is 120 days. The fine cannot exceed $500. Additionally, the minimum 48 hours of jail time may be suspended in the court’s discretion if the driver agrees to complete 48 hours of community service.
  • Level 3 is punishable by a minimum jail sentence of 72 hours and a maximum of six months with a requirement to pay a fine up to $1,000. A judge can only suspend a sentence if the driver completes 72 hours of community service. Level 3 sentencing is appropriate when there are no Grossly Aggravating Factors and the Aggravating Factors outweigh the Mitigating Factors.

Sentencing Involving Grossly Aggravating Factors

  • Level 2 punishment is appropriate if the judge concludes one Grossly Aggravating Factor is present. The offender may face a minimum jail sentence of 7 days and a maximum sentence of one year, in addition to the requirement of paying a fine up to $2,000. The judge imposes either 7 days in jail or orders that the offender abstain from alcohol for 90 consecutive days. A continuous alcohol monitoring system ensures that the defendant stays abstinent from alcohol.
  • Level 1 is a serious level of punishment imposed if the judge finds that two Grossly Aggravating Factors are present. Here, drivers can face a fine up to $4,000 and a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 30 days without parole and a maximum of 2 years. Level 1 sentencing will occur automatically when a child is in the car even if that is the only Grossly Aggravating Factor present.
  • Aggravated Level 1 is the most severe level of punishment. Aggravated Level 1 is appropriate when there are three Grossly Aggravating Factors. The driver faces 12 to 36 months in prison without parole and a fine up to $10,000.

If you are facing a DWI conviction are grossly aggravating factors are present it is a good idea to consider using a SCRAM device to minimize jail time.

What Should I Do If I Have Been Charged With A DWI in North Carolina?

Driving while impaired is a misdemeanor. When charged with a DWI in North Carolina you need to act fast! Immediately, contact a DWI attorney when charged with a DWI. Generally it is best to get a substance abuse assessment before your trial. Be sure that the agency providing the assessment meets all of the approval requirements for North Carolina.

What Makes Stowe Law Firm Different?

Ryan Stowe methodically reviews all of the facts of your DWI arrest. We will analyze every factor of your case. Mr. Stowe has completed the same training that law enforcement officers have as it relates to DWI charges and investigations. He has earned certificates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in both "DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing" and "Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE)." Since ARIDE is an advanced level course it is possible that Mr. Stowe has received more training in DWI detection than the officer who arrested you.

If you have questions about a pending DWI charge in North Carolina contact Ryan Stowe for a free consultation. Driving while impaired can cost you more than you realize. Always consult with a DWI attorney in North Carolina to ensure the best result.

About Ryan Stowe

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Ryan Stowe is the principal attorney at Stowe Law Firm, PLLC. Mr. Stowe is proud to be practicing in his hometown of Salisbury, NC, and is a first generation Rowan County attorney. Mr. Stowe takes pride in being a criminal defense attorney. He focuse…

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