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DWI Charges

Driving While Impaired (DWI) Charges

When police arrest you for Driving While Impaired (DWI) in North Carolina, you may be confused by the complicated process. There are administrative proceedings that impact your driving privileges. This includes automatic, temporary, or permanent suspension of your license. Drunk driving is also a crime in North Carolina, so the criminal court will hear your case and you will be up against a skilled prosecuting attorney. A conviction could mean fines, probation, and possible jail time in certain cases. You’ll need an experienced DWI defense attorney to represent you and achieve the best possible outcome.

Have you been charged with a DWI? Then contact our experienced DWI attorneys right away to schedule a confidential consultation. Our legal team will protect your interests, reputation, and driving record. 

Why Choose Tarlton Polk?

With these serious penalties on the line, it’s critical to hire an experienced attorney. The DWI Lawyers at Tarlton Polk Law have extensive training in drunk driving cases. Our team has tried over 500 DWI cases in Wake County District Court, as well as trying numerous jury trials in Superior Court. Brad Polk and Raymond Tarlton learned their criminal trial skills first as prosecutors. Now, they apply these talents to represent defendants facing drunk driving charges. They frequently help clients achieve dismissals and acquittals.

In addition to the knowledge that comes from litigating so many cases, our lawyers have also received extensive training, including:

Brad Polk with Client
  • Completion of courses on detecting impaired drivers, presented by North Carolina agencies.
  • Attendance at a 2009 regional DWI course for law enforcement officers and prosecutors. Part of the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program.
  • Instruction on the same standardized field sobriety tests law enforcement agencies use during their investigations.
  • Work with North Carolina’s Forensic Tests for Alcohol Branch related to the instrumentation used to measure a suspect’s BAC.
  • Individual instruction on the state’s Intox EC/IR II device used to measure BAC. This includes training on the absorption, distribution, and elimination of alcohol in the body. It also covers the scientific principles behind the technology.

Whether you’re facing your first DWI or you are facing serious felony DWI charges, our criminal defense lawyers are the litigators you need on your side. Brad and Raymond need to review your case to provide specific details on your circumstances, but it may be useful to review some of the information about DWI in North Carolina below.

Overview of DWI in North Carolina

North Carolina has enacted some of the strictest drunk driving laws in the US. They all fall under the umbrella of Driving While Impaired (DWI). Prosecutors may charge you with DWI if you are operating a vehicle and:

  • You are impaired, which is a subjective determination of the police officer based upon your demeanor, appearance, or performance on field sobriety tests; OR,
  • You have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or higher based upon the results of a chemical test.

Therefore, police can arrest you for drunk driving even if your BAC is lower than .08. If you demonstrate signs of impairment, you may face charges. Note that the BAC threshold is lower for commercial drivers (.04 percent) and individuals under the age of 21 (0.0 percent).

DWI Penalties

A DWI arrest is both administrative and criminal in nature, so there are two separate cases and two sets of penalties you face. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will have two cases. The Civil Penalty will depend on the outcome of the criminal case.

Criminal Case

If convicted of a DWI crime, a judge will hold a hearing to determine whether there are circumstances that affect the details of the sentence. Aggravating circumstances, such as a BAC above .15%, having a child in the car, or reckless driving will increase the penalties. The sentencing structure falls into different levels:

  • Level 5 = Fine up to $200, plus a minimum jail sentence of 24 hours and maximum incarceration of 60 days.
  • Level 4 = Maximum fine of $500, with a minimum 48 hours in jail and maximum up to 120 days.
  • Level 3 = Fine up to $1,000, plus a minimum incarceration of 72 hours and maximum jail time of six months.
  • Level 2 = Maximum fine of $2,000, along with minimum jail time of seven days and maximum of a year.
  • Level 1 = The maximum fine reaches $4,000, with jail time at a minimum sentence of 30 days and maximum of two years.
  • Aggravated Level 1 = Maximum of $10,000 with jail time at a minimum of twelve months and a maximum of thirty-six months.

With Levels 5 – 3, a judge may suspend the sentence upon completion of a designated number of community service hours. You may also not operate a vehicle for a certain amount of time. The court cannot issue a suspension under Level 1 or Level 2.

Administrative Proceedings

Your driver’s license is the subject of punishment under the administrative component of a DWI case.

  • First Offense One year driver’s license suspension.
  • Second Offense: Four year suspension of your driver’s license.
  • Third Offense: Your driver’s license is permanently suspended.

Other Consequences of a DWI Conviction

There are additional direct and indirect consequences that impact your life after a conviction for drunk driving in North Carolina.

  • The Court may order you to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on your vehicle when you get your license back. The IID prevents your vehicle’s engine from starting if it detects alcohol when you blow into it.
  • Your car insurance rates are likely to skyrocket. Most insurers consider a person with a DWI conviction to be high-risk.
  • With a DWI conviction, punishments for subsequent offenses will be more severe.
  • With a DWI conviction on your record, you will be punished more severely for subsequent offenses.
  • It may also affect professional licenses and other situations requiring background checks.
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