Woman in DWI hearing

What to Expect During Your DWI Hearing

North Carolina takes DWI (driving while intoxicated) very seriously. In fact, our state has some of the strictest laws in the country when it comes to this offense.

One of the punishments for driving while impaired in North Carolina includes the potential loss of your license. Depending on how many times you’ve been convicted of a DWI, you could even lose your license permanently.

The good news is that there are some circumstances where you may be able to regain driving privileges. In this article, we’ll discuss the process of trying to get your North Carolina driver’s license back after a DWI.

North Carolina DWIs Defined

According to state law, adults over 21 can be convicted of a DWI in North Carolina if they:

  • Operate a vehicle on a public road with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or more
  • Operate a vehicle despite being mentally or physically impaired by alcohol and/or drugs (even without a BAC of 0.08% or above)
  • Operate a commercial vehicle on a public road with a BAC of 0.04% or more

What happens after you get caught drinking and driving in North Carolina? If you’re convicted, you’ll likely face both criminal and administrative penalties.

Criminal DWI penalties in North Carolina can range from one day to several years in prison, as well as fines up to $4,000.

Administrative DWI penalties in North Carolina are imposed by the DMV and concern your driving privileges. Most of the time, a conviction results in at least one year of suspended driving privileges.

North Carolina DWI Hearings

If someone is convicted of driving while impaired in North Carolina three times, they will have their driver’s license revoked permanently. Though the suspension is described as permanent, the convicted driver may be able to regain their license through the hearing process.

There are two main types of DWI hearings in North Carolina: Restoration Hearings and Refusal Hearings.

DWI Restoration Hearings are typically held at least three years after a permanent license revocation. Restoration hearings don’t happen automatically. The driver must prove they are eligible for a hearing in order to apply. This usually means submitting things like driving records, criminal records, and proof of substance abuse treatment/rehabilitation.

If the application is approved, a DMV officer will contact the driver and schedule a hearing. The process of applying for and attending a restoration hearing can be lengthy and difficult. It’s always wise to hire a North Carolina DWI restoration hearing lawyer to ensure the process goes smoothly.

DWI Refusal Hearings are held when a driver has lost their license after being accused of refusing a breathalyzer test. North Carolina’s implied consent law means that drivers are required to take a breathalyzer test if asked by a law enforcement officer. Drivers who refuse the test, or are physically unable to blow into the breathalyzer, will automatically have their licenses revoked.

DWI refusal hearings can be a big help to people with legitimate medical conditions that prevent them from being able to blow. They’re also useful in instances where someone is wrongfully accused of refusing a breathalyzer test. These are both situations where you should consider hiring a North Carolina DWI refusal hearing lawyer to make sure your case is as strong as possible.

How to Prepare for a DWI Hearing in North Carolina

Just because DWI hearings aren’t held in a courthouse or in front of a judge, doesn’t mean they’re not serious. Your hearing is your only chance to prove that you’ve gotten help and won’t drive while impaired again.

Below are some tips to keep in mind while preparing for a North Carolina DWI hearing:

  • Don’t drink. Even though this process is concerned with drinking to excess, it’s a good idea to abstain from drinking any kind of alcohol before your hearing.
  • Carefully select your character witnesses. These witnesses will be asked rigorous questions regarding the changes you’ve made since your conviction and your current relationship with alcohol. Character witness testimony is incredibly important to this process, so you’ll want to think long and hard about who you choose.
  • Be as truthful as possible. Lying during a hearing is not only a bad idea but illegal as well. Unfortunately, the hearing process can cause the kind of anxiety that makes it easy to give an incorrect statement. Trying to keep calm is the best way to avoid accidentally lying.
  • Bring proof of alcohol treatment. You can also ask for letters of recommendation from your sponsor or the people who work at the treatment facility you visited.
  • Demonstrate responsibility whenever possible. For example, if you’ve removed alcohol from your home entirely, you should say so. Holding down a job, and finding alternate transportation methods to get you to that job, also demonstrate your commitment to being more responsible.
  • Be aware the hearing could take a while. Be prepared for a process that could take several hours. Bring food, water, and get as much sleep as you can the night before.
  • Dress well. This is not the kind of thing you show up to in shorts and flip flops. Wear clean, professional attire in order to give the DMV hearing officer the best impression possible.

When to Hire a DWI Hearing Lawyer

The best time to hire a DWI attorney is as soon as possible after being charged. That said, if you don’t have a DWI lawyer by the time you get to the hearing process, you should absolutely hire one. While nothing is guaranteed, hiring a DWI lawyer serves to protect your rights throughout the legal process.

If you or a loved one lost your driving privileges due to DWI convictions, get in touch with us. Whether you’re preparing for a New Hanover County DWI hearing, Brunswick County DWI hearing, or Pender County DWI hearing, we’re here to help. Contact our North Carolina DWI lawyers at 910-763-1100 to schedule your consultation.