DWI Defense

Group of people cheersing with alcoholic beverages - DWI Defense Practice Area Image

If you or a loved one has been charged with DWI in North Carolina, do not hesitate to contact our office to schedule a free consultation with our DWI Attorney. We understand the seriousness of this charge and how it could affect your life and future. It is important that you take immediate action to work on fighting the charge and take proactive measures to mitigate the consequences of this charge.

If you happen to be an immigrant, either a lawful permanent resident, or an undocumented immigrant, it is imperative that you seek legal advice immediately, as the consequences of a DWI can be devastating for you. You will need help from a DWI lawyer who can aggressively defend you in court, while taking into account the immigration consequences that the charge will have on your immigration status.

If you are a spanish speaker and feel more comfortable discussing this serious matter and its possible consequences with a spanish speaking lawyer, call our office to discuss your case with our immigration and criminal attorney who can explain things to you in your own language.

Unfortunately, for the past several years, there has been countless congressional efforts to limit the opportunities of immigrants, not only to become U.S. citizens, but also to remain in the U.S. as lawful permanent residents.

Our office serves the following counties:

  • Wake
  • Orange
  • Durham
  • Chatham

What is the officer looking for when he/she suspects you have been drinking and driving?

Police officers are trained to look for the symptoms of impairment:

  • A flushed face;
  • Red, watery, glassy, and/or bloodshot eyes;
  • Odor of alcohol on breath;
  • Slurred speech;
  • Fumbling with a wallet trying to get a license;
  • Failure to comprehend the officer’s questions;
  • Staggering when exiting the vehicle;
  • Swaying/instability on your feet;
  • Leaning on your car for support;
  • Combative, argumentative, jovial, or other inappropriate attitude;
  • Soiled, rumpled, or disorderly clothing;
  • Disorientation as to time and place;

I have been charged with a DWI?

Although you may be tempted to wait and see what happens on your court date. It is better to be proactive and find a lawyer as soon as possible. It is very rare that your case will be dismissed by the District Attorney or reduced to a lesser offense. Your best chance is to fight the charge in court, contact our office and start preparing to fight the charge in court. The more proactive you are, the better the chances of being successful in court.

  1. Obtain an alcohol assessment
  2. Begin alcohol classes based off the assessment
  3. Perform community service at a local non-profit organization
  4. Attend AA meetings
  5. Begin a period of sobriety before your trial
  6. Obtain a letter from your insurance company stating all claims relating to the charge have been paid

How is North Carolina treating DWI convictions?

There are six levels of punishment for a DWI in North Carolina, the levels range from a level 5 (being the most lenient) to an aggravated Level 1 (being the most serious). The levels of punishment can either be negotiated during a plea, or determined during a sentencing hearing, following a trial.

Level 5 DWI

Level 5 DWI is the most lenient DWI level. To find a Level 5 DWI, a judge must find that there were no grossly aggravating factors and that the mitigating factors substantially outweigh the aggravating factors. A person subject to Level Five punishment may be fined up to $200 and may be sentenced to a maximum term of not more than 60 days. The term of imprisonment may be suspended, but shall include the condition that the defendant:

  1. Be imprisoned for a term of 24 hours as a condition of special probation; or
  2. Perform community service for a term of 24 hours; or
  3. if the defendant is placed on probation, the defendant must obtain a substance abuse assessment and the education or treatment recommended in the assessment for the restoration of his/her driver’s license.

Level 4 DWI

Level 4 DWI is more severe than Level 5. To find a Level 4 DWI, a judge must find that there were no grossly aggravating factors and that the mitigating factors were balanced by aggravating factors. A person subject to Level Four punishment may be fined up to $500 and may be sentenced to a maximum term of not more than 120 days. The term of imprisonment may be suspended, but shall require that the defendant:

  1. Be imprisoned for a term of 48 hours as a condition of special probation; or
  2. Perform community service for a term of 48 hours; or
  3. If the person is placed on probation, he/she must obtain a substance abuse assessment and complete the education or treatment recommended in the assessment for the restoration of his/her driver’s license.

Level 3 DWI
Level 3 DWI is more severe than a Level 4 DWI. To find a Level 3 DWI, a judge must find that there were no grossly aggravating factors and that the aggravating factors substantially outweigh mitigating factors. A defendant subject to Level Three punishment may be fined up to $1,000 and may be sentenced to a maximum term of not more than six months. The term of imprisonment may be suspended, but shall require that the defendant:

  1. Be imprisoned for a term of at least 72 hours as a condition of special probation; or
  2. Perform community service for a term of at least 72 hours; or
  3. If the defendant is placed on probation, the defendant must obtain a substance abuse assessment and the education or treatment required for the restoration of a driver’s license.

Level 2 DWI
Level 2 DWI is more severe than Level 3. To find a Level 2 DWI, the Judge must find that there was one grossly aggravating factor. The Judge does not weigh aggravating and mitigating factors, except if they affect how much of a punishment he will give under the Level 2 punishment guidelines. A defendant subject to Level Two punishment may be fined up to $2,000 and may be sentenced to a maximum term of not more than 12 months. The term of imprisonment may be suspended only if it requires the defendant to serve a term of imprisonment of at least seven days or to abstain from consuming alcohol for at least 90 consecutive days. If the defendant is placed on probation, the defendant must obtain a substance abuse assessment and the education or treatment for the restoration of a driver’s license.

The judge may impose, as a condition of probation for defendants subject to Level One or Level Two punishments, that the defendant abstain from alcohol consumption for a minimum of 30 days, to a maximum of the term of probation, as verified by a continuous alcohol monitoring system.

Level 1 DWI
Level 1 DWI is more severe than Level 2. To find a Level 1 DWI, the Judge must find that there was a passenger under the age of 18 in the vehicle or that there were two grossly aggravating factors. A defendant subject to Level One punishment may be fined up to $4,000 and may be sentenced to a maximum term of not more than 24 months. The term of imprisonment may be suspended only if it requires the defendant to serve a term of imprisonment of at least 30 days. A judge may reduce the minimum term of imprisonment required to no less then 10 days if the defendant abstains from alcohol consumption and is monitored by a continuous alcohol monitoring system for no less than 120 days. The defendant must obtain a substance abuse assessment and the education or treatment for the restoration of a driver’s license.

Aggravated Level 1 DWI
Aggravated Level 1 DWI is the most severe misdemeanor DWI level. If a Judge finds three or more grossly aggravating factors, the Judge will sentence the driver to an Aggravated Level 1 punishment. A defendant subject to Aggravated Level One punishment may be fined up to $10,000 and may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not more than 36 months. Probation may be granted only if it requires the defendant to serve a term of imprisonment of at least 120 days. If probation is granted, the defendant must abstain from drinking alcohol for a minimum of 120 days while undergoing continuous alcohol monitoring and obtain a substance abuse assessment and the education or treatment required for restoration of a driver’s license.

How are DWI levels of conviction determined in North Carolina?

In order to determine the level of punishment for an individual convicted of a DWI, the court must consider three types of statutory factors: aggravating, Grossly Aggravating Factors.
Grossly Aggravating Factors

  • Prior DWI conviction within 7 years of the date of the current DWI offense
  • An intervening DWI conviction
  • Offense committed while defendant’s license was revoked for a prior DWI
  • Offense resulted in serious injury to another
  • A child under the age of 18 was in the vehicle

Aggravating Factors

  • A Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0.15% or higher
  • Especially reckless or dangerous driving
  • Negligent driving that leads to a reportable accident
  • Driving with a revoked license
  • Poor driving history
  • Two or more prior convictions of a motor vehicle offense (not involving impaired driving) of which 3 points were assigned
  • Speeding at least 30 mph over the speed limit
  • Passing a stopped school bus
  • Any other aggravating factor that increases the seriousness of the crime

Mitigating Factors

  • Slight impairment – a Blood Alcohol Concentration at or less than 0.09%
  • Driving that is considered safe (besides the impairment) at the time of impairment
  • Safe driving record
  • Impairment was due to a lawfully prescribed drug
  • Voluntary submission to a mental health facility for an assessment
  • Completion of a substance abuse assessment and 60 days of monitored abstinence from alcohol