DWI FAQ

I was charged with a DWI.  What is a DWI?

In North Carolina Driving While Impaired is a criminal traffic offense.  Pursuant to North Carolina General Statutes 20-138.1 a DWI is defined as a person operating a motor vehicle upon any highway, street, or public vehicular area while having an blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher or while their mental and/or physical faculties were appreciably impaired. So the state must prove that you were 1) the operator 2) of a motor vehicle 3) driving on a highway, street, or public vehicular area 4) while impaired—either a BAC of .08 or your faculties were appreciably impaired.  We can consult you as to the specific facts of your case and determine if there is an argument to be made.  If the state fails to prove even one element, you are not guilty.

Sentencing:

There are 6 levels of DWI sentences in North Carolina.  Based on the facts surrounding your case, the maximum can be as much as 36 months in jail with a $10,000 fine and costs or as little as 24 hours of community service with a $100 fine and cost. We will consult you to determine which factors will aid you in the resolution of your case.

What will happen to my license when I am charged with a DWI?

In North Carolina, upon a refusal to the breath test or a reading of a .08 where you are charged with a DWI, you will have your license revoked for a period of 30 days from the day you are charged.  Provided you meet certain requirements; we can get you a limited driving privilege after 10 days of that revocation are up so that you can drive from day 11-30 of your civil revocation.  After that time, you can pay a restoration fee to the courthouse to have your hard license restored.

I don’t want to plea to a DWI. How can we fight this?

There are three phases to attacking a DWI.

1) The first is whether there was a reason for the stop.  For a stop to be valid, there must be a reasonable, articulable suspicion for the stop.  Basically, the officer must have had a valid reason to pull you over to begin with.  If they do not have a valid reason, the stop and everything after that point may be suppressed.  Winning a suppression hearing on the reason for the stop may get the case dismissed.

2) The second phase is whether there was probable cause for arrest.  Essentially the stop is valid, but now the officer needs probable cause to arrest you and take you to the station to do the breathalyzer.  Typically, probable cause is established by the field sobriety tests the officer will have you perform and the officer’s observation.  Failure of the officer to comply with certain standards or failure to even administer the field sobriety tests may allow us to suppress everything after the testing.  This includes suppressing the breathalyzer tests and may result in dismissal.

3) the third phase is arguing that you fail to meet one of the elements of DWI.  At this point, the stop is valid, there was probable cause for the arrest, and the breathalyzer result is admissible in court.  At this point we argue that the state has failed to meet their burden of establishing one or more elements beyond a reasonable doubt.  If the state has failed to establish any of the elements, the end result is acquittal.

It is important to note that there may not always be an issue to attack one or more of these phases.  DWI cases are very fact specific and certain arguments may or may not be applicable to your case.

What will happen to my license if I am convicted of a DWI?

If convicted of a DWI in North Carolina, your license will be revoked for a period of 12 months.  There are certain requirements that you need to meet to get a limited driving privilege.  This privilege starts on the day of conviction and takes you all the way until you are eligible to receive your license.  In the event that you have an out of state license, North Carolina cannot revoke you license, but your privilege to drive in the state of North Carolina will be revoked.  You would still be eligible for a limited driving privilege.  Note: This privilege is only good within the State of North Carolina.  It will not permit you to drive in another state.

What is an interlock? Will I need one?

The interlock is a device which requires you to breathe into the device to start your car.  You cannot start your vehicle if you have any alcohol on your breath.  In North Carolina if you are convicted of a DWI, you will need to have an interlock installed if you blow a .15 or higher on the intoxilyzer.  With a .15 or higher, you can still receive a limited driving privilege if convicted. However, you will have to wait 45 days from the day of conviction to get the privilege, and you will need to have an interlock installed in your car for 1 year before you can have your license restored.