If you’ve been convicted of driving while under the influence (DWI) in North Carolina, there are a number of potential consequences you will face if convicted, including hefty fines, jail time, and the suspension of your driver’s license. DWI offenses in the state are typically charged as misdemeanors, but if you’ve been convicted of three or more prior DWI offenses within 10 years of your current DWI charge, then you will be facing a charge of habitual DWI. In this situation, your offense will be charged as a felony. The penalties for felony DWIs in NC are severe, so it’s important to retain the assistance of a skilled criminal defense attorney if you find yourself facing a potential felony conviction.
If you’re facing charges for habitual DWI in North Carolina, call a Charlotte DWI lawyer from Randall & Stump, PLLC at 980-237-4579, or reach out online to schedule a free and confidential case consultation.
DWI Laws in North Carolina
Per North Carolina General Statute (NCGS) § 20-138.1, you can be found guilty of impaired driving if you’ve lost normal function of your mental and/or physical capacities after consuming an impairing substance, if you’ve drank enough alcohol to put yourself over the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit, and if there is any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance in your body.
If you are 21 or over, your BAC limit is .08 percent. If you are a CDL driver who was operating a commercial vehicle at the time of your stop, your BAC limit is .04 percent. If you are under the age of 21, you are not legally permitted to have any amount of alcohol in your system.
Is a DWI a Felony in North Carolina?
Most DWIs in North Carolina are charged as misdemeanors. These offenses fall on a sliding sentencing scale, meaning the punishments for such crimes will increase or decrease, depending on which level of DWI for which you are sentenced. If you have previously been charged with multiple DWIs, however, you will likely be charged with a felony. The main factor that leads to charges for habitual DWI in NC is three or more prior convictions for drunk driving within 10 years of your current charge. If you have past DWIs on your record within this lookback period, you will be classified as a class F felon in North Carolina, and you will be subject to the harsh penalties that come from such a conviction.
Penalties for Habitual DWI in Charlotte, NC
The consequences for any DWI conviction can greatly affect every aspect of your life, but the punishments you face for this offense in NC are much harsher, and even mandatory. If found guilty of a felony DWI in the state, you face:
- A mandatory jail sentence of at least one year (this cannot be suspended by the judge in your case)
- Large fines
- Permanent revocation of driving privileges
In addition to felony DWI jail time and fines, a habitual DWI in North Carolina brings with it the following collateral consequences:
- Permanent revocation of your driver’s license (per NCGS § 20-138.5)
- Inability to obtain or maintain certain professional licenses
- Forfeiture of your vehicle (if you’re facing DWI charges while driving on a suspended license)
- Immigration issues
- Problems pertaining to child custody and visitation
- Alcohol and/or substance abuse counseling
- A permanent mark on your record
Defenses for Your Drunk Driving Felony
When you’re facing a habitual DWI in NC conviction, there are a number of defenses your attorney may use, such as:
Lack of Reasonable Suspicion
In order to be pulled over for DWI in North Carolina, a police officer must have reasonable suspicion that you are engaging in criminal activity. They cannot stop you without legal basis. If you were not driving erratically, swerving on the road, improperly switching lanes, or engaging in other behavior that might have indicated you were driving under the influence, then our DWI attorneys will argue that the arresting officer in your case did not possess the reasonable suspicion to stop you.
Lack of Probable Cause
An officer must have probable cause to arrest you. This means that there must be facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe that you were driving while intoxicated. This may include officer observations of the vehicle in erratic motion that indicates intoxication of the driver, personal contact with you and observation of indicators of intoxication, failure of standard field sobriety tests, or failure of a preliminary breath test at the roadside. Without probable cause, the officer cannot legally arrest you.
Improper Administration of BAC Tests
BAC tests administered both roadside and at a police station are not immune to error. A breath test administered at the site of your stop must be properly calibrated in order to get an accurate reading. The same sort of breath test at a police station can also produce inaccurate results if the machine is not properly maintained or the test is not administered as it is meant to be. Blood tests, while more accurate than measuring one’s BAC with their breath, are also prone to error. Regardless of the method of testing law enforcement used to measure your BAC, the lawyers at our firm will argue that there is a strong possibility that the results may be flawed.
It is possible to involuntarily drink alcohol or consume impairing substances. For example, if you are out with friends and someone spikes your non-alcoholic drinks, you could continue drinking them, not knowing they contain alcohol or drugs. If you unknowingly consumed an amount of alcohol that caused you to drive while impaired, our Charlotte DWI attorneys will argue that you were unaware that your beverages were spiked, and that you should not be held accountable for another person’s actions.
The above are only a few defenses for habitual DWI in North Carolina. If you’re facing felony charges for driving under the influence in North Carolina, call Randall & Stump, PLLC to learn how our skilled attorneys may defend you throughout the legal process.