Here in North Carolina, the courts take driving while under the influence (DWI) offenses seriously. Now, if you or a loved one have been charged with a DWI, you’ll be facing some major fines and penalties. It’s important to know as much about the law in order to protect yourself from unfair prosecution. It’s advisable to contact a defense attorney who specializes in the DWI law in North Carolina, in order to ensure that your rights are protected.
As your Carteret County criminal defense attorneys, we specialize in DWI law—and we’re here to help you stay educated and to defend yourself against prosecution. That’s why we’re covering answers to some of the most common DWI questions that we encounter. Find answers here, and get in touch with an attorney here at Cummings & Kennedy for further help and representation.
Should I Plead Guilty to a DWI?
It depends. In certain cases, it may be wise to plead guilty to a DWI, since you may receive more leniency from the court when fines and penalties are issued. A judge may reduce fines, and jail time—in some instances, you may only be subject to a fine, court fees, and community service.
However, if you have reason to plead not guilty to a DWI, it’s best to contact a lawyer to have them assess the facts of your case. You may be able to build a case against to defend yourself against the DWI charge. Your attorney will advise you on the best plan of action for your particular situation and circumstances.
If you’d like to learn more, you can read our article, Is It Ok To Plead Guilty To A DWI?
What Fines & Penalties Can I Expect?
Depending on the severity of the offense, a variety of penalties can be issued. There are five levels of DWI infractions, with Level V being the least serious infraction, and Level I being the most severe infraction. The North Carolina Department of Safety outlines the DWI penalties that a judge can issue:
“Level V: Punishable by a fine up to $200 and a minimum jail sentence of 24 hours and a maximum of 60 days. A judge can suspend the sentence but upon completion that the driver spend 24 hours in jail, perform 24 hours of community service or not operate a vehicle for 30 days.
Level IV: Punishable by a fine up to $500 and a minimum jail sentence of 48 hours and a maximum of 120 days. A judge can suspend the sentence but upon completion that the driver spend 48 hours in jail, perform 48 hours of community service or not operate a vehicle for 60 days.
Level III: Punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and a minimum jail sentence of 72 hours and a maximum of six months. A judge can suspend the sentence only upon completion that the driver spend at least 72 hours in jail, perform 72 hours of community service or not operate a vehicle for 90 days.
Level II: Punishable by a fine up to $2,000 and a minimum jail sentence of seven days and a maximum of one year. A judge CANNOT suspend the minimum sentence.
Level I: Punishable by a fine up to $4,000 and a minimum jail sentence of 30 days and a maximum of two years. A judge CANNOT suspend the minimum sentence.“
The article continues to note that Level I and II infractions are only issued for drivers who are “repeat offenders, persons whose license are revoked, impaired drivers, impaired drivers who are transporting young children and impaired drivers who hurt someone in a crash.” These drivers may be issued a felony DWI, whereas other offenses will be considered misdemeanors.
Can They Take My Blood in a DWI Arrest?
The police have the authority to take your blood for blood alcohol content (BAC) analysis. If you refuse to have a breathalyzer test to analyze your BAC, the police can seek a warrant for a blood test—these warrants are easy to attain. At this point, you must comply by having your blood drawn. If you have a BAC that is higher than the legal limit, you will then be charged with a DWI.
Breathalyzer tests and blood analysis testing are very different. As such, it’s important to understand how to defend yourself according to the testing that was performed. Speak with an attorney to attain guidance for the best action to defend your case and your rights.
You can learn more about blood testing for BAC in our article, Can They Take My Blood in a DWI Case?
Will I Lose My License if I Get a DWI?
Your license may be suspended for a year or more, depending on the severity of the infraction. For a first-time conviction, you may lose your driving privileges for a year. For subsequent convictions (made within three years of a first conviction), your right to drive may be revoked for four years. Driving restrictions may be reduced or altered—seek out representation to protect your rights.
You can learn more about license restrictions and DWI law from our article, Will I Lose My License If I Get a DWI in Eastern North Carolina?
Can I Continue to Drive Before & After a DWI Trial?
As we just mentioned, your driver’s license may be suspended for up to four years after a DWI. However, there may be options that allow you to drive. You may be able to attain a provisional license which gives you the right to drive in certain circumstances. Provisional licenses include temporary licenses, as well as a pretrial limited licenses. A provisional license may enable a driver to go to and from work or school. You must act quickly after a DWI charge in order to attain a provisional license. Get in touch with a criminal DWI defense attorney right away to improve your chances of attaining a provisional license. You may be able to attain a provisional license after 10 days after a conviction.
You can learn more about provisional licenses and requirements from our article, I Still Need to Drive After a DWI Arrest, What Do I Do?
Could My Breath Test Be Wrong?
Breath testing isn’t perfect, and it may provide faulty results that result in incrimination. In certain circumstances, breath tests may be performed with an improperly calibrated breathalyzer, or they may be improperly administered. For instance, an administrator may not be properly trained, or they may not have the authority to provide a breath test.
If you want to challenge the validity of your breath test, it’s wise to speak with a DWI attorney. You may be able to defend yourself against a DWI charge.
You can learn more about breath testing from our article, Is a Breath Test Reliable?
Can a DWI Be a Felony?
Felony DWI charges can be issued in extreme cases. As the North Dakota Department of Public Safety states, a felony charge can be issued “for Habitual DWI offenders, drivers who have had three prior DWI convictions within the past seven years.”
Are DWI Laws Different for Those Who Are Under 21?
There is currently a zero-tolerance policy for drivers who are under 21 here in the state of North Carolina, which is to say these drivers cannot have any illegal drugs or alcohol in their system while driving. On top of normal DWI law restrictions, those who are under 21 may be charged with a DWI if they have any BAC over zero, or if they have illegal drugs in their system.
In addition, if an under-21 driver refuses to take a BAC test, they may be convicted simply on the basis that the driver has the smell of alcohol on his or her breath.
Under-21 drivers may be able to attain a provisional license from a judge if they were over 18 at the time of the offense, and they haven’t had a previous conviction.
How Are Other Drugs Tested Under DWI Law?
DWI law surrounds alcohol-related infractions, as well as drug-related infractions. If an officer suspects a driver of being under the influence of illegal drugs, they may be subject to a chemical test for drugs. A driver’s license may also be revoked if they refuse to take a drug test.