You are guilty of a Charlotte NC DWI if you drive a vehicle on a public street while impaired. Furthermore, any impairing substance or a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more is legally sufficient. However, as with any crime, the State must prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In addition, a BAC 0.08% is only one indicator of impairment. Hence, the State may prosecute even if you “blow” below the “legal limit” if they can show “appreciable impairment.” And again, any impairing substance is enough if it renders a driver unsafe.
Charlotte NC DWI Attorney Robert J. Reeves is an accomplished trial lawyer with over 27 years experience. In his criminal practice, he thoroughly reviews all evidence and then presents his clients with options. If there are legal errors, he files Motions to suppress evidence or, in some circumstances, dismiss your case. Most importantly, Mr. Reeves carefully listens to your questions and provides you with answers. Then, he advises you on your options and then you decide. But rest assured that you make all critical decisions. While we guide you, you decide what is best for you and your family.
Limited Driving Privilege (LDP)
Probably the first question in every new case is how to get your license back to drive again. So let’s start here. After arrest, your driver’s license is revoked for 30 days. However, after 10 days, you are eligible for a limited driving privilege (LDP). Here is what you need. First, you need a petition for Limited Driving Privilege. Next, bring a copy of your Substance Abuse Assessment. Then, a certified copy of your seven-year driving history (cost $7.00). And finally, a DL-123 insurance form from your insurance agent. After you do your part, we appear in front of a District Court judge on your behalf. Once granted, it is valid for 20 days before your regular license is reinstated for $100.00.
When an officer has “reasonable suspicion” of criminal conduct, including traffic offenses, he can stop you. In addition, an officer can conduct a brief investigatory stop even if you have not actually broken any laws. However, the officer must describe specific facts to reasonably “conclude… criminal may be afoot.” In most cases, judges accept the officer’s articulated circumstances unless there is illegal racial or ethnic profiling.
While “reasonable suspicion” is fairly easy, “probable cause” is a higher burden. Consequently, the officer conducts field sobriety tests and gives two portable breath tests at the street. Depending on the results and other observations, the police then decide whether to arrest you. Then, we review their notes and findings to decide if they have followed proper procedure. If not, we move to dismiss your charges. However, even if the arrest is proper, we next evaluate the other aspects of your case for trial. In the end, the State must prove every part of your Charlotte NC DWI charge.
What to do if pulled over for a Charlotte NC DWI?
First, you have the “right to remain silent” and please do. But also be polite and respectful to the officer. After all, any erratic or emotional behavior is a sign of impairment that will come back against you later. However, you are not required to answer any questions about drinking. Secondly, you are not required to perform “field sobriety tests” and please don’t. Because these “tests” are difficult under any circumstances, you will “fail,” and any “mistakes” are used against you.
Finally, you can refuse to submit to portable breath tests for alcohol and please do. Here’s why. Because it tests for alcohol, the result will prove alcohol in your system. However, the exact reading is not admissible in your Charlotte NC DWI case. Rather, only a positive or negative result is allowed. But for formal breath testing at the station is more complicated. Here, you can refuse, but the consequences are immediate and severe. Consequently, refusal results in an automatic driver’s license suspension for one (1) year. In addition, you cannot get a “limited driving privilege” for six months. And furthermore, the officer can then draw your blood with a warrant even against your will.
Charlotte NC DWI Sentencing Factors
In addition to being rather complex, Charlotte NC DWI fines and penalties are also confusing. Hence there are several variables and a formula used to decide your “punishment level.” First the State argues the “aggravating” factors, then we argue the “mitigators.” And then, the judge decides your fate. So here are the factors used on both sides:
“Grossly Aggravating” Factors
- Prior DWI conviction within 7 years, or after current arrest (each prior conviction is a separate “grossly aggravating” factor);
- DWI while licensed is suspended/revoked for a previous DWI;
- Serious injury to another person caused while DWI;
- Child under 18 in vehicle while DWI;
If no “” grossly aggravating factors, the judge considers any “aggravating” factors, including:
- Gross impairment, or BAC 0.15% or greater;
- Especially reckless or dangerous driving;
- Negligent driving that leads to accident;
- Driving while license revoked;
- Two or more prior motor vehicle 3 point convictions or for which license is subject to revocation, within 5 years, or one or more prior convictions of an offense involving impaired driving that occurred more than 7 years earlier;
- Speeding while fleeing police;
- Speeding at least 30 miles per hour over posted limit;
- Passing a stopped school bus;
- Any other “aggravating” factor that increases offense.
Similarly, the judge also considers any “mitigating” factors, including:
- Slight impairment resulting from alcohol only with a BAC level of 0.09% or less;
- Slight impairment with no testing available;
- Driving was safe and lawful except for the impairment;
- Safe driving record with no conviction for any 4 point motor vehicle offense or for which the person’s license is subject to revocation within 5 years;
- Impairment caused primarily by a lawfully prescribed drug for an existing medical condition, and the amount of the drug taken was within the prescribed dosage;
- Voluntary submission to mental health facility for assessment and/or treatment for alcohol/drug issues;
- Any other factor that mitigates the seriousness of the offense.
Charlotte NC DWI Punishment Levels
Aggravated Level One Punishment (Special Level – 3 or more “grossly aggravating” factors present) – Jail (12 months to 36 months – no parole); Fine (up to $10,000);
Level One Punishment (2 “grossly aggravating” factors or driving with underage or disabled passengers) – Jail (30 days to 24 months); Fine (up to $4,000);
Level Two Punishment (1 “grossly aggravating” factor) – Jail (7 days to 12 months); Fine (up to $2,000);
Level Three Punishment (“aggravating” substantially outweigh “mitigating” factors) – Jail (72 hours to 6 months, community service, or combination); Fine (up to $1,000);
Level Four Punishment (no factors are present or are balanced) – Jail (48 hours to 120 days, community service, or combination); Fine (up to $500);
Level Five Punishment (“mitigating” substantially outweigh “aggravating” factors) – Jail (24 hours to 60 days, community service, or combination); Fine (up to $200).
Charlotte NC DWI Licensing Penalties
DWI 1st – license suspended for 1 year (mandatory); substance abuse counseling;
DWI 2nd – license suspended for 4 years (if previous DWI conviction within 3 years); ignition interlock device (required to restore driving privileges); substance abuse counseling;
DWI 3rd and greater – better call us and sit down for this charge.
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST)
After stopped, officers usually ask “how much have you had to drink tonight?” If you answer “yes” or the officer smells alcohol, he will ask you to try “roadside” field sobriety tests. Although there are many variations (reciting the alphabet backwards, counting backwards), there are only three (3) sanctioned tests. While difficult to perform, they include the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), walk and turn (WAT), and one leg stand (OLS) tests. While the first test is really just an “eye exam” on the side of the road, officers swear by it. As for the other two tests, they are just balancing “carnival” feats. However, you cannot extend your arms to balance. After years of practicing Charlotte NC DWI law, I still don’t know this relates to driving a car.
Underage Drivers Under 21
In North Carolina, it is illegal to drive with any level of alcohol if you are under 21. Period. Hence a zero tolerance policy for “minors.” Furthermore, the punishment is the same as any other DWI. Thus, the driver is subject to license revocation, insurance rate increases, and punishment levels discussed earlier. As a result, it is very difficult to defend these cases under current law. However, you still need professional counsel to guide your child through the court system.