Aiding and Abetting DWI

Aiding and abetting a DWI is a confusing charge. It is charged as and sentenced as a DWI crime in North Carolina but applies to someone besides the person who was driving. Despite this seeming contradiction, an aiding and abetting a DWI charge can carry some of the same heavy penalties as a DWI. If you have been charged with aiding and abetting a DWI it can be crucial to your freedom to have a skilled defense attorney experienced in defending individuals being charged with driving while impaired and related charges.

“Driving while impaired” defined

In North Carolina, impaired driving includes being under the influence of substances besides just alcohol. A person can be found guilty of a DWI if they

  • Are under the influence of any impairing substance
  • Have an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more
  • Are under any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance (this is the highest classification of illegal drugs in North Carolina and includes drugs such as heroin, opiates and ecstasy)
What is aiding and abetting?

Aiding and abetting impaired driving is when a person knowingly encourages, aids, advises or instigates another person to drive, or attempt to drive, while impaired. There are numerous different behaviors that this could encompass, but the most common scenario involves a person turning their keys over to an impaired driver, and/or being present as a passenger when the driver is arrested for DWI.

Turning your car over to an impaired driver and riding along

In this common scenario, courts here have held that a person who knowingly gives control of their vehicle to an impaired person and lets them operate the car without protest, is “as guilty as” the driver.

But what about when you did not know the other person was impaired? Simply knowing that a person had been drinking is usually not enough. The courts ask whether the abettor “knew or should have known” that the potential driver was noticeably intoxicated.

If the driver was not noticeably intoxicated, or if the defendant did not furnish the driver with alcoholic beverages, this can help defend against an aiding and abetting charge in this circumstance.

Other levels of involvement

In the above scenario, the aidor and abettor turned control of their own personal vehicle over to an impaired person. Whether a court finds a person guilty of aiding and abetting a DWI will hinge on the level of that person’s participation in the DWI. You are generally less likely to be found guilty of aiding and abetting if you simply fail to stop an impaired person from driving—our law does not impose any such duty on the average layperson.


Because they are charged in connection with a DWI offense, aiding and abetting a DWI is charged and sentenced according to the separate sentencing structure North Carolina provides for DWI crimes. Aiding and abetting a DWI is classified as a Level Five DWI offense here, which is the lowest level of DWI offense. However, at sentencing for DWI the court usually takes into consideration any mitigating or aggravating factors that should increase or decrease the person’s sentence. For an aiding and abetting charge, however, the court does not need to make any findings as to mitigating or aggravating factors.

Like all Level Five DWI offenses, aiding and abetting a DWI is punishable by up to a fine of up to $200 and a minimum jail hold of 24 hours that cannot exceed 60 days. For Level Five offenses, it may be possible to negotiate community service instead of jail time. Negotiating a lesser sentence is one of the many reasons it is highly beneficial to retain experienced legal counsel if you are charged with a DWI offense.

It is important to remember if you are pulled over that you do not have to answer any questions posed to you by law enforcement, including whether or not you or the driver has been drinking. Your voluntary answers, no matter how innocent they may seem, can be used against you in court.

If you are present as a passenger when the driver was arrested for DWI, you could be facing aiding and abetting a DWI charges. It is just as important to retain good criminal defense representation with this charge as it would be as a DWI. The attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC defend the rights of individuals charged with DWI and non-DWI criminal offenses, including drug charges, in Charlotte, Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Union, Iredell, Gaston and the surrounding counties and have years of experience. Contact our office today for a free initial consultation about your case with one of our DWI attorneys.