Driving While Impaired

Most people we represent come to us saying that they were impaired and made a mistake by driving drunk. Some people contact us and say they had very little to drink and were not impaired. Either way, there is nothing that can be done to change the fact that you were charged with DWI. Despite the charge, it is important to remember that you are innocent until proven guilty and it is important you have someone by your side to ensure you receive the benefit of every constitutional protection and presumption of innocence.

Driving While Impaired is by far the most complicated motor vehicle offense, and can be one of the most difficult to defend. In recent years the North Carolina legislature has changed laws to try and crack down on drunk driving. The effect has been a streamlined process that runs the risk of violating an individual’s rights and liberties. While drunk driving is clearly dangerous, and not a smart thing to do, it is also dangerous for the State to infringe on someone’s rights in an effort to make it easier to convict them.

In order to convict you of Driving While Impaired, the District Attorney must prove that you 1. Operated, 2. a Motor Vehicle, 3. on a Street, Highway, or Public Vehicular area, 4. While a. appreciably impaired or b. having a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher. Each element of this charge must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Depending on the circumstances, each element can be surprisingly difficult to prove.

Often we focus on the impairment element, but there are many potential defenses to DWI/DUI, ranging from very simple to very complex. We will analyze your case from all potential standpoints. Sometimes the Officer doesn't have cause to stop your vehicle or arrest you. In some cases, there may not be anyone that can prove you were driving. In others, a medical condition may affect the machine used to calculate your blood alcohol level, giving an artificially high reading.

When hiring a DWI/DUI attorney, it is important to make sure your attorney will examine every possible defense, not just convince you that pleading guilty is the best decision. Make sure any attorney you think about hiring has experience with DWI/DUI representation, is familiar with the latest cases and developments, and is fully prepared to take your case to trial. If you are facing a DWI/DUI and are looking for an attorney, contact us to discuss your case.

Trial

The policy of the Wake County District Attorney’s office is to either allow a defendant to plead guilty, or take the case to trial. No matter how weak the case may be, the Assistant District Attorney’s simply do not have the authority to dismiss DWI's or DUI's. Based on this, pretty much every case that is not a guilty plea will go to trial in District Court. This is not a jury trial, and will only be before a judge. If, for any reason, we are not successful in District Court, we can appeal the case to Superior Court for a jury trial. Because we want our fees reasonable, and because we have every intention of being successful in District Court, our initial fee only covers District Court. If we are not successful, and after careful discussion, we decide to appeal to Superior Court, a separate fee agreement may need to be reached.

Sentencing

DWI’s are sentenced differently than any other offense. There are five sentencing levels, with Level 1 being the most harsh, and Level 5 being the most lenient. The Judge decides your sentencing level based on Grossly Aggravating Factors, Aggravating Factors, and Mitigating Factors. Grossly Aggravating Factors are what get you to Level 1 and Level 2. Examples of such factors are Prior DWI’s within 7 years, an Accident involving personal injury to others, and having a minor in the vehicle when the offense happened. Sentencing Levels 1 and 2 are only used when Grossly Aggravating Factors are present, and carry mandatory jail sentences.

Levels 3, 4 and 5 give the Judge the authority to require jail time, but generally carry probation, community service, and a fine. The lengths or amount of each depend on the circumstances and the judge. In order to get the least amount of each, we try to maximize the number of Mitigating Factors for your case. In every case, we recommend you obtain a Substance Abuse Assessment from a licensed provider. A Substance Abuse Assessment is the only mitigating factor that can be affected after you are charged. These assessments cost about $100.00 and take about an hour of your time. Afterwards, the provider will send a letter to us with the results. Regardless of what the result is, just obtaining the assessment will help with sentencing and complying with the recommended treatment is also a requirement to restore your license if convicted.

If convicted and sentenced at a level 3, 4 or 5, you can usually expect a fine between $50 and $500, 24 to 72 hours community service, and a $200 fee for the privilege of doing that community service. Your license will also be suspended for a minimum of 1 year, but often times a Limited Driving Privilege can be obtained.

Interlock

One aggravating factor is “Gross Impairment” or driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.15 or higher. North Carolina Law requires that anyone convicted of DWI with “Gross Impairment” is required to install a Monitech Ignition Interlock Device on their car before they can drive again. These devices are expensive, and can be more than a little inconvenient. The Interlock Device requires you blow into a tube every time you start your car, and periodically thereafter, to make sure you have not consumed alcohol.

If you have been charged with DWI and your BAC is 0.15 or higher, contact us as soon as possible to discuss how we may be able to avoid these requirements.