DWI Penalties North Carolina

There are many penalties associated with criminal court and with the North Carolina Department of Transportation / Division of Motor Vehicles if you are charged and convicted of DWI.

North Carolina DWI First Offense

For many people facing a DWI, this is their first criminal charge and they have no idea what to expect. If this is what you’re currently going through, you should contact an experienced DWI defense attorney to guide you through this stressful and confusing process. A DWI defense attorney can help alleviate the anxiety you’re feeling by answering your questions about the pending penalties you could face upon conviction. Plus, it just makes you feel better to know that there is someone out there who is on your side.

What to Expect for a North Carolina DWI First Offense

DWI is somewhat odd in North Carolina, as there is a special statute for sentencing impaired driving.  Many people think that DWI offenses are classified as a misdemeanor.  Frankly, impaired driving is not truly a misdemeanor or felony, except in the case of Habitual Impaired Driving. For simplicity sake, DWI cases are more similar to misdemeanors than felonies. Prior to sentencing, the judge will take into account whether or not you had any aggravated or grossly aggravating factors associated with your DWI charge. For example, the judge will look to see if your breath test was well above the legal limit or if you had a minor in your vehicle. You will be sentenced based on one of five levels, with Level One being the most serious. There is quite a difference in penalties based on your sentencing level. In certain circumstances it is also possible that your vehicle can be impounded and sold at auction; during which time you can be responsible for the impoundment fees. Depending on your case, you may also be required to complete community service and can even be put on probation.

Under North Carolina law, a DWI first offense conviction results in a mandatory 12-month license suspension, depending on the judge’s decision. However, it may be possible for you to obtain a conditional license ten days after the 30-day pre-trial revocation. There are numerous conditions to obtain a Pre-Trial Limited Driving Privilege

North Carolina DWI Second Offense

When you are faced with a DWI second offense, obviously the penalties will be more severe than for a DWI first offense. However, that does not mean that you should just plead guilty. You need representation and an experienced DWI defense attorney like Bill Powers of the Law Offices of Powers McCartan. Bill Powers will fight for your rights and help protect your freedom.

Under North Carolina law, being convicted of a DWI second offense within seven years is a serious charge. It is imperative that you hire an attorney who focuses a substantial amount of his practice on DWI defense in North Carolina. If you are convicted of a second offense DWI, even outside the seven year window, the judge will most likely give you more serious penalties. During sentencing, the judge considers your past DWI record and reviews the facts surrounding your case, such as if there was a minor in your car or if you caused serious injury or even death due to an accident or vehicle collision. There are five levels for sentencing that the judge uses; the most serious is level one and the least serious is level five.  There is another felony charge of Driving While Impaired called Habitual Impaired Driving. Felony sentencing for DWI enhances the punishments and subjects you to a lifetime license suspension. If convicted of Felony Habitual Impaired Driving, you will never, ever be able to drive in the State of North Carolina.  There is no form of privilege, work license or hearing that can reinstate your license. A permanent revocation for Habitual DWI is, for all practical purposes, truly permanent.

Based on the level the judge uses for sentencing, jail time may range from as little as 24 hours to as much as 2 years in prison or the North Carolina Department of Corrections (DOC). The same is true for the court fine, which can range from a relatively minimum amount to several thousand dollars, depending upon the level of offense.  It is possible that if sentenced at level 3, 4 or 5, the judge may impose a penalty of community service ranging from 24 to 72 hours in lieu of jail time. Level 5 DWI normally requires 24 hours of community service. Level 4 DWI normally requires 48 hours of community service and Level 3 DWI normally requires 72 hours of community service. This is in addition to other fines, penalties and conditions of any suspended sentence imposed by the judge. You may also be placed on probation for a specific period of time, which is normally associated with the suspended term. It is in the discretion of the Court whether to make probation supervised or un-supervised. The Court may order house arrest, intensive probation, alcohol and drug treatment, abstinence from alcohol and even the installation of ankle alcohol monitoring device called a SCRAM (Secured Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring).

North Carolina Ignition Interlock Device

Losing your driver’s license may be one of the penalties for a DWI conviction in North Carolina. That’s why it’s so important to hire an experienced DWI defense attorney like Bill Powers of the Law Offices of Powers McCartan. As a Board-Certified Criminal Law Specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Bill Powers focuses a substantial amount of time and effort into the defense of this area of law and understands how losing your license can affect your life. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, one option for keeping you on the road may be the installation of an ignition interlock device.

The ignition interlock device requires you to first blow into the device before it will start your engine. The ignition interlock is supposed to detect the existence of any amount of alcohol in your breath, although there is a certain amount of variance allowed.  Presently, the only company lawfully authorized and/or recognized in North Carolina is Monitech.  The ignition interlock device normally will have a preset blood alcohol content level in the range of .02%.  If it detects this amount of alcohol on your breath, or more, it will prevent you from starting your vehicle.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has set standards for the ignition interlock devices; those that meet their standards allow for a running or rolling retest. This means that every few minutes while driving, you’ll have to again blow into the machine to make certain there is no alcohol in your breath. This was created to curb other friends and family members from blowing into the machine for a driver simply to start their engine for him or her. As technology has progressed, these machines have become almost impossible to tamper with—especially when they are monitored every few weeks.  A positive reading on the ignition interlock, if obtained during a rolling or running test, will cause your horn to honk in an alarm fashion and may also cause your headlights to blink on an off. Obviously it would be dangerous to just shut off your vehicle in the middle of the road. The purpose of the blinking lights and honking horn are to draw the attention of other motorists, which may also include the police. That may be reasonable suspicion for the police to stop your vehicle.

Ignition interlock devices (for the most part) make both the state of North Carolina and those accused of DWI happy — the state doesn’t have to worry about the person driving drunk and the driver may have the opportunity, given certain legal prerequisites, to continue driving to work. However, you should know that the ignition interlock device will be installed in your vehicle at your expense (another reason why the state likes this program…it doesn’t affect tax payers). The maintenance fee can be considerable.  In North Carolina, you will be required (at minimum) to go to the Monitech facility for maintenance and a “datum dump” where every attempt to start your vehicle is recorded via an onboard computer. That information is sent to the Department of Transportation/Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for review.  If it is determined that you have repetitive positive readings, you may be subject to revocation of your license.  In certain circumstances, evidence of positive readings could affect a suspended sentence by the court if you have been ordered to refrain from any drinking or associate with people known to have consumed alcohol.

North Carolina DWI Car Insurance DL-123

In addition to the penalties in and outside of the courtroom, you’ll also be faced with the dilemma of your auto insurance coverage. Obviously, having a DWI conviction on your driving record is going to be a red flag for your insurance carrier. The insurance company may label you as an at-risk driver, which may result in substantially higher insurance premiums and possibly even the cancellation of your policy. So what should you do if you were recently charged with DWI? First, you should talk to a seasoned attorney who is experienced in nuances associated with Driving While Impaired charges. Bill Powers is one such lawyer.

Our justice system assumes that all defendants are innocent until proven guilty, which is why you may not have to let your insurance carrier know about your DWI charge just yet. Since you have not been convicted of the crime of DWI, you’re not “hiding” anything from your carrier.

North Carolina License Suspension

When you’re arrested for DWI, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the penalties you’ll be facing in court. Unfortunately, the court penalties are not the only ones you face in the state of North Carolina. After being charged with DWI, the Clerk of the Court in the county where you were charged may notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The DMV may then seek to suspend your driver’s license.

In cases where there is a reading of .08 or higher, or where you are accused of “willfully refusing” the blood and/or breath test, the charging officer may automatically seize your license. Thereafter, the Clerk of Court will forward a Notice of Suspension/Revocation to the Department of Transportation/Division of Motor Vehicles. This is an extraordinarily complex area of law. In that each case or set of charges may be different, it makes sense to seek out experienced legal counsel. Keep in mind that this license suspension occurs before you have even entered a court room. DWI defense attorney Bill Powers of the Law Offices of Powers McCartan can help you not only in criminal court but also with any proceeding allowed by the DMV.

The administrative license suspension applies to drivers who were arrested for having a blood alcohol content (BAC) at or above the state’s legal limit of .08%.

DWI and Plea Negotiations

North Carolina specifically got rid of plea negotiations with regard to DWI years ago. That pertains to the DWI itself. Make no mistake it doesn’t matter how nice of a person you are. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a stellar member of the community. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never had a DWI conviction or at all. What matters is whether the state can prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. There are no negotiations meaning that the state is not going to offer community service. The state is not going to offer some way for you to beat the DWI through reckless driving. You either win or lose at trial.

You either win or lose by filing motions or pleading not guilty to proceedings. Don’t get me wrong. There are some negotiations that go on. For example if your charged with DWI, speeding, reckless driving, lane violation, or a whole host of other different types of charges there may be some negotiations to get those other charges dismissed if you plead guilty to DWI. I don’t encourage that until you know the facts and the circumstances of your case. You must understand that a conviction of driving while impaired is serious. Talk with a legal professional. Make a decision based on information and thought. That’s what we’re here for. Good decision.