The holiday season is one of the happiest of the year but it’s also often one of the most dangerous because of drunk driving. Alcohol consumption spikes over the holidays. Many people are celebrating; others are commiserating. Regardless of the reason, more time off...
DWI & DUI Attorneys
Drinking and driving are two activities no one should ever do together. Unfortunately, because alcohol impairs the decision-making process, many people still choose to drive while intoxicated and end up with a DWI.
In fact, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), there are more than 300,000 incidences of drunk driving in the United States every single day. These incidents result in an average of 30 drunk driving-related deaths per day, or about one per hour, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The only real way to truly protect yourself from being charged with a DWI is to never drink and drive. That said, if you do drive drunk and are pulled over, understanding North Carolina’s DWI laws will help ensure you know your rights and give you an idea of what to expect in the days and weeks ahead.
North Carolina DWI Law Overview
North Carolina has some of the toughest DWI laws in the country. With several “zero tolerance” laws in effect, even a first offense can have serious consequences. If you are pulled over after being suspected of drunk driving, you will be charged if any of the following are true:
- You are an adult (over 21) driving on a public road with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher.
- You’re an adult (over 21) operating a vehicle while mentally/physically impaired by drugs and/or alcohol (even if your BAC is lower than 0.08%).
- You are driving a commercial vehicle on a public road with a BAC of 0.04% or higher.
- You’re underage (under 21) and driving with a BAC of 0.01% or higher.
Additionally, North Carolina’s “Implied Consent” laws require drivers to take a BAC test if asked by a police officer during a traffic stop or checkpoint. If they don’t, their license will automatically be revoked for up to one year.
What to Expect if You’re Pulled Over for DWI
Most DWIs begin either at a traffic stop or a DWI checkpoint. Either way, someone who is suspected of driving while intoxicated will be asked to exit their vehicle and take a blood alcohol content test. In North Carolina, BAC tests are usually performed using a breathalyzer but urine and blood tests can be used in rare cases.
You may also be asked to take a sobriety test, which can consist of the “standing on one leg” test or the “walking and turning” test, to measure your balance, or the nystagmus test, which is used to measure eye movement and pupil dilation. Additionally, during the entire time you are with police, they will be observing you for signs of drunkenness, like slurred speech, flushed skin, bloodshot eyes, or the smell of alcohol.
If you can’t keep yourself balanced, can’t follow instructions, or aren’t able to stay focused on the sobriety test, the officer will consider the test failed. It is important to note that, while you can refuse to take a sobriety test in North Carolina, you cannot refuse to take a BAC test in North Carolina, as doing so violates the implied consent law and will result in immediate consequences.
What Happens If You’re Charged with DWI in North Carolina
Regardless of how many times you’ve been charged with DWI, you’ll most likely face both criminal and administrative penalties, plus:
If this is your first DWI offense, your license can be revoked or suspended for up to one year and you may be required to have an ignition interlock device in your car for up to one year. You may also be fined or required to do community service. First time DWI offenders in North Carolina can also face jail time, depending on the aggravating factors involved.
If this is your second DWI offense, your license can be revoked or suspended for up to four years and you may be required to have an ignition interlock device in your car for up to three years. You will face higher fines and longer community service requirements as a second time DWI offender in North Carolina, and you may also face jail time, depending on the aggravating factors involved.
If this is your third DWI offense, your license can be revoked permanently and you may be required to have an ignition interlock device in your car for up to seven years. You may also face maximum fines and community service sentences, substance abuse treatment requirements, and jail time, depending on the aggravating factors involved.
You can also be charged with a controlled substance DWI if you are found operating a vehicle while having any amount of any schedule I drug in your body. You can also be charged with aiding and abetting a DWI police can prove that you willingly gave your car keys to someone who you know was too drunk to drive (assuming they actually do drive and are pulled over).
As mentioned above, aggravating factors can have a huge impact on the severity of your DWI punishment. Aggravating factors in North Carolina often include things like speeding, reckless driving, having an excessive BAC content of 0.15% or more, having a child in the vehicle, or driving on a suspended or revoked license.
In addition to the penalties listed above, you will most likely see an increase in your car insurance costs and your DWI charge may be listed on your permanent record.
North Carolina DWI Hearings
Third time DWI offenders in North Carolina will lose their license “permanently.” However, depending on the circumstances, they may be able to have limited driving privileges reinstated if they first attend a DWI hearing.
However, not everyone is eligible for limited driving privileges. For example, if you violate implied consent law, are convicted of a level one or two DWI, or are charged with underage DWI, you won’t be able to apply for limited driving privileges and will instead have to learn how to get around without a license.
Even though you understand the basics of what happens after a DWI charge, you can never understand them as well as a DWI lawyer can. At Mulligan Attorneys, we’ve helped many people through DWI trials. We can help whether you’ve been wrongfully accused, had your Miranda rights violated, or were not properly administered a BAC test.
We know that your license, job, and life may be at stake, and we are committed to guiding you through this process both inside and outside of the courtroom. We may also be able to help you seek limited driving privileges and have your seized vehicle returned to you. Call us at 910-763-1100 or click here to schedule a free consultation.
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