DWI / DUI Attorney

Being arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated can be a nightmare scenario. You may wonder how you’ll navigate the court system and if your driver’s license will be taken away. Whether or not it’s your first offense, you deserve a fair process in court.

Getting pulled over by the police is always intimidating. However, what might have been an uncomfortable, yet brief traffic stop turns into a nightmare when you realize an officer thinks you have been driving while intoxicated (DWI). If you are arrested, your life will change immediately. You must learn about your rights during a criminal case and figure out how to navigate your local court system. However, you do not have to do all of that alone.

Experienced and trusted North Carolina DWI lawyer Jonathan Breeden will thoroughly explain and protect your rights. He will review your situation thoroughly to prepare for the worst possible outcome in your case, while also building a strong defense to fight for the best possible outcome.

To learn more about how an experienced criminal lawyer can help you fight a DWI/DUI charge, contact Breeden Law Office at (919) 661-4970 today.

North Carolina DWI/DUI Law

North Carolina law states that a person commits a DWI/DUI offense when they drive a vehicle on any public road or area in the state:

  • While under the influence of an impairing substance
  • After having consumed enough alcohol to put them over the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit
  • With any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance or its metabolite in their system

If you are 21 years old or older, then your BAC limit is .08 percent. If you are younger than 21 years old, then any alcohol in your blood can lead to a DWI charge. If you have a commercial driver’s license and you are in a commercial vehicle at the time of the stop, then your legal limit is .04 percent.

Also, keep in mind you can be charged with a DWI for being impaired by an impairing substance. This includes controlled substances, prescription medications, and over-the-counter drugs. You could face a serious DWI charge without a drop of alcohol in your system.

What to do if You Are Arrested for a DWI/DUI

When you are pulled over by the police and suspected of a DWI/DUI, the best way to protect yourself is to understand your rights and invoke them. When you are interacting with the police, before or after an arrest, you have the right to:

  • Remain silent. After identifying yourself and providing your driver’s license, you do not have to answer the officer’s questions or provide a statement. Instead, tell the officers you are choosing to remain silent until a North Carolina DWI lawyer is present.
  • Request an attorney. You always have the right to a lawyer. If you are arrested for a DWI, inform the officers you want to contact an attorney, and that you will not answer questions until you have a lawyer present.

Can I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?

Your Rights Regarding Chemical Tests

If you refuse an official breath test after you have been arrested for a DWI, you can be punished civilly. The most common penalty is to have your driver’s license revoked for up to one year after refusing one of these tests.

If you refuse a warrantless blood test, you can only face civil – and not criminal – consequences. You may have your driver’s license revoked, but you cannot face an additional penalty for a DWI after a chemical test refusal but you can still be charged with DWI if the officer has enough other evidence to establish probable cause that you were driving under the influence. However, if the police obtain a warrant requiring you to provide a blood sample, your refusal could lead to a number of legal issues and penalties.

Your Rights Regarding Field Sobriety Tests

During a traffic stop, police officers may ask you to submit to one or more field sobriety tests (FSTs). There are three FSTs that have been standard by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus test
  • The one-leg stand test
  • The walk-and-turn test

You have the right to refuse to take any of these tests. Unlike with chemical tests, North Carolina’s implied consent law does not apply to these FSTs. You cannot be penalized for refusing to take an FST. However, if you did not know this and submitted to one or more FSTs before your DWI arrest, contact North Carolina DWI lawyer Jonathan Breeden right away.

Mitigating Factors for a DWI

Before you can be sentenced for committing a DWI in North Carolina, the judge must determine whether there are any mitigating, aggravating, or grossly aggravating factors present in your case. Mitigating factors are those that can minimize the consequences of your conviction. They include:

  • A clean driving record during the previous 5 years
  • A BAC that is just barely at or over the legal limit, if you are at least 21 years old
  • Impairment due to a lawful prescription medication
  • Voluntarily participating in a treatment program

Aggravating Factors for a DWI

Aggravating factors are those that make your situation worse and can increase your penalty, including:

  • Having a previous DWI conviction within the previous 7 years
  • Speeding to avoid being stopped and arrested
  • A significantly high BAC

Grossly Aggravating Factors for a DWI

Grossly aggravating factors are much more serious than aggravating factors, and can lead to a more serious charge and harsher punishments. These types of factors include:

  • A previous conviction for Driving While License Revoked when the revocation was due to an impaired driving offense
  • Seriously injuring another person while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Having a minor in your car at the time of the offense
  • A DWI conviction within the last seven years

Potential DWI/DUI Penalties

The level of the DWI offense determines the potential punishment. All DWI convictions carry a minimum of a one year suspension of your driver’s license.

  • Level 5: You may have one or more mitigating factors in your case, and the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating factors. You can be fined up to $200, and jailed for up to 60 days. If your sentence is suspended, you must spend at least 24 hours in jail or complete at least 24 hours of community service. You also face a driver’s license suspension.
  • Level 4: Any mitigating factors in your favor are balanced by one or more aggravating factors. You can be fined up to $500, and sentenced to jail for up to 120 days. If your sentence is suspended, you must spend at least 48 hours in jail or complete 48 hours of community service. You also will lose your driving privileges temporarily.
  • Level 3: Any aggravating factors in your case outweigh any mitigating factors. You can be fined up to $1,000 and sentenced to jail for 6 months. If your sentence is suspended, you must spend at least 72 hours in jail or complete 72 hours of community service. Your driver’s license will also be suspended for a period of time.
  • Level 2: There is one grossly aggravating factor in your case. You can be fined up to $2,000 and imprisoned between 7 days and 1 year. You can participate in an in-patient rehabilitation program instead of spending the week in jail.
  • Level 1: If there are two grossly aggravating factors in your case, you can be fined up to $4,000 and sentenced to jail for any amount of time between 30 days and 2 years. The month of jail time cannot be suspended but you can substitute time in an inpatient rehabilitation center for the time in jail in the discretion of the sentencing judge.
  • Aggravated Level 1: If there are at least three grossly aggravating factors in your case, you can be fined up to $10,000 and sentenced to prison for up to 3 years. If your sentence gets suspended, you will spend at least 120 days in jail.

Is It Possible to Reduce DUI to a Lesser Offense?

Let a North Carolina DWI Lawyer Fight for You

When you have been charged with a DWI offense, you need to speak with an experienced and skilled North Carolina DWI lawyer about the defenses that may apply to your case. You may be able to argue that the original traffic stop was a violation of your constitutional rights. Similarly, if you were arrested during a roadblock, there may be evidence that it was not a legal DUI check point. Based on the evidence against you, your DUI lawyer also may be able to challenge the results of a BAC test, or one or more FSTs.

Facing a DWI charge is a serious situation. However, there are many ways to fight for your exoneration or to minimize the impact of a conviction. For more information on potential DWI defenses, contact attorney Jonathan Breeden today. Contact Breeden Law Office online, or call (919) 661-4970 to schedule a consultation.

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