Driving While Intoxicated

Driving While Intoxicated

North Carolina’s strict laws for drivers impaired by drugs and alcohol are some of the toughest in the country due, in part, to the Governor’s DWI Initiative that has made punishment for repeat offenders more significant. The NC legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08. Drivers under 21 years of age are governed by a zero-tolerance alcohol and drug policy that includes a mandatory one-year license suspension upon conviction.

If you or a loved one is facing DWI charges in North Carolina, it is important to have an experienced, compassionate defense attorney on your side to protect your freedom and your future. Contact The Law Offices of Anna Smith Felts in Raleigh at 919.834.3790 for your free over-the-phone case evaluation. Our legal team will work hard to achieve the best possible outcome with decades of experience, dedication and the resources necessary to aggressively defend your legal rights.

North Carolina’s Implied Consent Law

The Implied Consent law, Section 20-16.2 of the North Carolina General Statutes, essentially means that if an officer has reason to believe a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it is implied that the individual consents to taking a chemical test to verify the driver’s level of impairment. Refusing to take a chemical test in North Carolina will result in very serious consequences including the loss of your driver’s license for a minimum of one year and a refusal can be used against you in a court of law.

NOTE: Your rights under the NC Implied Consent Law include a 30-minute timeframe to seek the advice of a DWI defense attorney and to call for a witness to observe testing procedures.

How is DWI Proven in North Carolina?

DWI charges result when a driver is accused of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol with a BAC over the legal limit for his or her circumstances. Prosecutors must prove the driver was considered legally intoxicated with evidence gathered at the time of arrest. Here are three forms of evidence that authorities will gather to determine if a driver is under the influence:

  • Blood-Alcohol Evidence – BAC is collected from the driver through a Breathalyzer test, urine test or blood test.
  • Driver Evidence – The driver’s appearance and conduct are observed and noted during interaction with authorities on the scene including any noticeable odor of alcohol or drugs emitting from the individual’s person or breath.
  • Field Evidence – Results from Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) along with any recorded testimony from an officer’s body cam or vehicle camera is admissible in court in North Carolina.

Levels of Sentencing in NC for DWI

A misdemeanor DWI conviction in the Tar Heel State can mean severe penalties including jail time, fines and a suspended license determined by a complex, six-level sentencing structure. The levels range from the most serious offenses at Level 1 to lesser offenses at Level 5. Habitual DWI offenders who had three prior DWI convictions within the past seven years will be charged with Aggravated Level 1 (Felony DWI) that mandates a minimum one-year active jail term that cannot be suspended.

Aggravating Factors that will Affect Your DWI Case

The eight specific factors below, plus the catch-all, are classified as ‘·aggravating” for DWI sentencing purposes:


( 1) Gross impairment of the defendant’s faculties while driving or an alcohol concentration of O .15 or more within a relevant time after the driving. For purposes of this subdivision, the results of a chemical analysis presented at trial or sentencing shall be sufficient to prove the person’s alcohol concentration, shall be conclusive, and shall not be subject to modification by any party, with or without approval by the court.
(2) Especially reckless or dangerous driving.
(3) Negligent driving that led to a reportable accident.
(4) Driving by the defendant while his driver’s license was revoked.
(5) Two or more prior convictions of a motor vehicle offense not involving impaired driving for which at least three points are assigned under G.S. 20-16 or for which the convicted person’s license is subject to revocation, if the convictions occurred within five years of the date of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced. or one or more prior convictions of an offense evolving impaired driving that occurred more than seven years before the date of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced.
(6) Conviction under G.S. 20-141.5 of speeding by the defendant while fleeing or attempting to elude apprehension.
(7) Conviction under G.S. 20-141 of speeding by the defendant by at least 30 miles per hour over the legal limit.
(8) Passing a stopped school bus in violation of G.S. 20-217.
(9) Any other factor that aggravates the seriousness of the offense.
NOTE: Except for the factor in (5), the conduct constituting the aggravating factor must have occurred during the same incident as the impaired driving offense.

You Need an Experienced Raleigh DWI Defense Attorney on Your Side
If you have been charged with DWI, representation by a highly experienced North Carolina defense attorney will help you and your family face the challenging legal battle ahead. The hard-working legal team of The Law Offices of Anna Smith Felts, PLLC have successfully argued thousands of Driving While Impaired in North Carolina and have the resources to help you reach the best outcome in your DWI case. Call us today at 919-834-3790 for your free case review.

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Schedules and Penalties

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