I Have Prior DWIs, But My Charges Say First Offense. Can the Police Fix the Mistake?
When you get pulled over for driving while impaired (DWI) in Mecklenburg County, the arresting officer doesn’t always have access to your criminal history when they write out the initial criminal complaint against you. For this reason, if you have been convicted of DWI in the past, your latest charge may appear as a first offense DWI. However, the police and the district attorney’s office are at complete liberty to use your previous criminal history against you as they become aware of new facts – including your history of drunk driving.
The penalties for DWI in North Carolina are divided into five levels. The level that you fall into depends on the mitigating, aggravating, and grossly aggravating factors of your case, which include your criminal record and driving history. So, if your second DWI is charged as a first offense, you may benefit from reduced penalties. But at Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys, our Charlotte DWI lawyers’ first goal is to avoid a conviction altogether. To find out more about beating a DWI charge, contact us today at (980) 237-4579 for a free, initial consultation.
The District Attorney Look Up Your Record and Use Priors at Sentencing
More often than not, the district attorney (DA) who will prosecute your DWI case will perform due diligence and look up your criminal history. Your prior DWI convictions will almost always show up in this search, in which case the prosecuting attorney will argue that any prior DWI convictions be counted as either grossly aggravating or aggravating factors at sentencing, should you be convicted.
Should I Tell the Police that I Have a Prior DWI Conviction?
For a lucky few, a prior DWI charge does not get noticed by either police or the prosecutor, and the case gets tried as a first offense. If you are aware of a prior offense that is not being reflected in the criminal complaint, you have no obligation to tell the authorities. The burden is on them to prove every element of the offense – including prior offenses that may affect your sentencing. Be mindful, however, that failing to correctly report prior criminal convictions may be a crime in other situations, such as when you are filling out a firearms purchase form.
Limiting the amount of information you provide the police is generally advisable. In fact, most criminal defense attorneys agree that the less their clients talk with law enforcement, the easier their cases are to defend. On the other hand, you should be open with your criminal defense lawyer about prior convictions – and any other information that could affect your case. Even if your DWI is now being charged as a first offense, you should tell your lawyer about your other DWIs so they can prepare a strategy for the likely event that the DA will discover your priors and use those during your sentencing hearing, if you are ultimately convicted.
Call a Charlotte DWI Lawyer for Help Today
If you’ve been charged with DWI, you need to reach out to an experienced criminal defense lawyer right away. By fighting the charges, you may be able to avoid serious criminal penalties, and the burdensome collateral consequences of a DWI, which include limited driving privileges, higher insurance premiums, and restricted employment opportunities. To speak with a Charlotte DWI lawyer, call Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys today at (980) 237-4579, or reach out through our online contact form.