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Can I Get Charged with a DWI If My BAC Was Under .08% in North Carolina?

By Randall & Stump excels in criminal defense, serving clients in Charlotte, NC & other surrounding cities.
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Category Charlotte DWI Attorney, Charlotte DWI Lawyer, DUI/DWI, DWI
Thursday, June 6, 2019

a few drinks and getting ready to drive

Most people are shocked when they get charged with driving while impaired (DWI). Even more shocking is when they face DWI with a BAC (blood alcohol content) under .08%. While this may seem like an easy case, North Carolina’s DWI laws are more complicated than you might expect, so don’t assume that your charges will be dismissed because the police made a mistake.

The Charlotte DWI defense attorneys at Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys help people face their drunk driving charges, and they fight for their clients to obtain fair results. To schedule a free and confidential consultation of your case, contact us today at (980) 237-4579.

When You Can Be Charged with DWI in NC

Under North Carolina law, there are three main scenarios where you can be charged with DWI:

  • You have a BAC of .08% or higher
  • You have any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance in your blood or urine
  • You are operating a motor vehicle while your mental and/or physical faculties are appreciably impaired by an “impairing substance”

Speaking to the nature of the third scenario, you can be charged with DWI for driving under the influence of any substance, so long as you are impaired. In other words, you can be charged with DWI if your BAC is lower than .08% or in cases where you hadn’t consumed any alcohol whatsoever.

What is Impaired Driving in North Carolina?

BAC measurements are used to determine whether or not someone is impaired by alcohol. However, you can be charged with DWI if the officer believes you are impaired, regardless of the existence or non-existence of alcohol. They do not need to measure your BAC to charge you with DWI. Generally, this means that they will rely upon their observations prior to pulling you over – in addition to your behavior during the stop. For example, an officer may claim that you were unable to stay in your lane and were driving erratically, causing them to pull you over. They will then look to various signs of impairment, such as:

  • Swaying, staggering, or stumbling while walking or standing
  • Bloodshot, watery eyes
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Disheveled appearance
  • Inability to follow directions

They will also cite how you performed in the field sobriety tests as evidence of your impairment. Regardless, it’s important to emphasize that without a BAC measurement, the state’s case against you is subjective, and could be more difficult to prove. An experienced criminal attorney in Charlotte, NC can evaluate your case and help you formulate an effective defense.

Common DWI Scenarios When BAC is Lower Than .08%

There are situations in North Carolina in which you might be charged with a DWI with a BAC under .08%. First, you should be aware that North Carolina has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to drinking and driving for those who are under the age of 21. In addition, if you were a commercial driver who was working (and driving a commercial vehicle) at the time of your alleged drunk driving offense, you can face DWI charges if you have a BAC of .04% or higher. Lastly, if the officer believes that you are impaired by of any sort of illegal or legally prescribed drugs, you can face DWI charges despite having absolutely no alcohol in your blood at all.

Potential Penalties in North Carolina

DWIs in NC are punished on a scale that considers your criminal history, aggravating factors, and mitigating factors relevant to your case. For a first offense DWI, you face the following potential penalties:

  • Level Five – 24 hours to 60 days in jail, and fines reaching $200
  • Level Four – 48 hours to 120 days in jail, and up to $500 in fines
  • Level Three – 72 hours to six months in jail, and fines reaching $1,000
  • Level Two – Seven days to one year in jail, and up to $2,000 in fines
  • Level One – 30 days to two years in jail, and fines reaching $4,000
  • Aggravated Level One – One to three years in jail, and up to $10,000 in fines

In addition to the statutory consequences of incarceration and fines, you face a host of collateral issues after a DWI conviction. Such a mark on your record could affect your employment, ability to find suitable housing, child custody arrangement, and more.

Contact a Charlotte DWI Attorney Today

DWI charges are serious offenses. Don’t let a simple mistake jeopardize your future. At Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys, our attorneys have the skill and experience you need during this challenging time. Call us at (980) 237-4579, or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation today.