Driving While Impaired is such a controversial issue, Prosecutors hands are tied when it comes to negotiating and reducing a charge of Driving While Impaired.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Impaired (DWI) can have serious consequences to your livelihood. North Carolina prosecutors’ hands are tied when it comes to negotiation and reducing charges for DUI’s and DWI’s. If you have been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Boone or Watauga County, it is critical to take immediate and appropriate action towards building your legal defense. Since DWI’s are not reduced or negotiated by the District Attorney, most of the time you have two options: plead guilty or go to trial. Depending on your case and underlying historical factors, your case can be classified as a misdemeanor or felony conviction. Navigating your case and determining whether to plea or go to trial is a very important decision and should not be made without a thorough investigation to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your case.

North Carolina DUI & DWIs

The terms DUI and DWI are often used to refer to an individual operating a motor vehicle while impaired on drugs or alcohol. This means that anyone sitting in the drivers’ seat with the engine running can be convicted of these charges. Charges can also be considered for anyone in actual physical control of the vehicle. Depending on the circumstances, a driver can be convicted of a DWI without the vehicle being in motion. Also, if the driver is a minor under supervision of the intoxicated individual, the supervising passenger can be charged as well.

Typically, prosecutors seek to prove that the driver is impaired by establishing the legal limit of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or by testing for any metabolized controlled substance in a driver’s system. In North Carolina, individuals can be charged with a DUI or DWI when they have a BAC of 0.08% (0.04% for commercial vehicles) or above. In North Carolina, you can be charged of convicted of Driving While Impaired if you have taken any drug, whether prescribed or not, if a judge finds that the substance has impaired your mental or physical faculties. North Carolina is a zero tolerance state for drivers under the age of 21 who have consumed drugs or alcohol. It is illegal for anyone under 21 to operate a motor vehicle with any amount of alcohol or drugs remaining in their system. It’s best to never get behind the wheel after using impairing substances. Do your part to keep Boone’s roadways safe.

Field Sobriety Tests & Intoxilyzers

If you refuse to take the intoxilyzer, your license can be revoked for a period of one year. Even if found not guilty of DUI or DWI, not taking a breath test puts your driving rights at risks. If you refused to participate in a breath test or blood test and find that your license has been revoked, consult with a legal team to evaluate a plan to challenge your case. It can be determined at a hearing that your implied consent rights were violated and that your license can be restored. Don’t delay speaking to an attorney to determine if your implied consent rights were violated, there are time limitations on scheduling a hearing at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

North Carolina DUI & DWI Penalties

Upon being charged with Driving While Impaired for the first time, your license can be revoked for a period of 30 days; however, it is possible to get a limited driving privilege for work, school, or household needs. If you were caught operating a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or more, or with narcotics in your system, you may face serious consequences. Typical DUI & DWI penalties in North Carolina include:

  • High Fines
  • Community Service
  • License Suspension
  • Jail Time
  • Ignition Interlock Devices

DUI & DWI convictions are contingent upon aggravating and mitigating evidence. A prosecutor may present the following at court hearings:

Gross Aggravating Factors

At a DUI or DWI hearing, a Watauga County prosecutor will evaluate Gross Aggravating Factors surrounding your incident including: having a previous DUI or DWI on your record within the past seven years, driving while your license is revoked, causing serious injury, or having a minor in the vehicle. After a North Carolina District Court Judge or Superior Court Jury determines the aggravating and mitigating factors of your case, they will determine your penalty by weighing aggravating and mitigating factors.

Aggravating Factors

Prosecutors may present evidence on aggravating factors of your DUI or DWI. Aggravating circumstances include having a BAC of 0.15 or higher, reckless driving, collisions, eluding the police, or having two or more traffic violations on your driving record.

Mitigating Factors

You may be able to present evidence in court based on mitigating factors. Work with a detailed DUI & DWI lawyer to submit to the court: substance abuse assessments and/or treatment, slight impairment (.09 BAC or less), safe and lawful driving at the time of the DUI or DWI, a prior safe driving record, impairment that is caused by a drug that was prescribed to you by a doctor, community service, or any other factor (such as being polite and cooperative with law enforcement officers) that the judge may consider to reduce the seriousness of the offense.

North Carolina DUI & DWI Punishment Levels

After a North Carolina District Court Judge or Superior Court Jury determines the aggravating and mitigating factors of your case, they will determine your penalty by weighing aggravating and mitigating factors. Once evidence of your DUI or DWI case has been presented in court, the judge appointed to your case will classify and convict you to one of five DWI and DUI levels. Your sentence will be evaluated and a jail term, fine, and penalty will be assigned to you according to North Carolina laws. In North Carolina all DWI and DUI convictions require a mandatory substance abuse assessment with appropriate treatment options if applicable. Penalties of DUI and DWIs can have life altering consequences. Work with an experienced attorney to get the best outcome possible based off of your previous criminal history. The below chart outlines the fines, sentences, and penalties for each level of DUI or DWI punishment.

Punishment LevelFines & FeesSentencesPenaltiesUnder NC Law
Aggravated Level One PunishmentUp to $10,000 fineMinimum term of no less than 12 months.
Maximum term of no more than 36 months.
Required Substance Abuse Assessment & Treatment20-179(f3)
Level One PunishmentUp to $4,000 fine

Continuous Alcohol Monitoring System – no more than $1,000

Minimum term of no less than 30 days.
Maximum term of no more than 24 months.
Required Substance Abuse Assessment & Treatment20-179(g)
Level Two PunishmentUp to $2,000 fineMinimum term of no less than 7 days.
Maximum term of no more than 12 months.
Required Substance Abuse Assessment & Treatment20-179(h)
Level Three PunishmentUp to $1,000 fineMinimum term of no less than 72 hours.
Maximum term of no more than 6 months.
Required Substance Abuse Assessment & Treatment20-179(i)
Level Four PunishmentUp to $500 fineMinimum term of no less than 48 hours.
Maximum term of no more than 120 days.
Required Substance Abuse Assessment & Treatment20-179(j)
Level Five PunishmentUp to $200 fineMinimum term of no less than 24 hours.
Maximum term of no more than 60 days.
Required Substance Abuse Assessment & Treatment20-179(k)

License Suspensions

North Carolina has the right to evoke the license of anyone charged with a DUI or DWI if the person refuses to submit to an intoxilyzer. Following a revocation, drivers must reinstate their driving privileges with a DMV hearing. Oftentimes, clients are required to install a mandatory ignition interlock device (IID). In certain cases, it is possible to have your revocation shorten.

Avoid NC DUI or DWI Convictions with a High Country Criminal Attorney

Harmon Law, PLLC, is skilled and committed to representing clients affected by DUI’s or DWI’s in Boone, NC. We know that driving privileges can have a heavy impact on your livelihood and wellbeing. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation and start preparing for your DUI or DWI court case in Watauga County. Protect your driving privileges and avoid losing your license in the process.