Driving While Intoxicated – DWI – Lake Norman
It’s amazing how quickly a fun evening can take a turn for the worse. Celebrating with family, going out with friends, even dinner and drinks with a significant other can all serve as the starting point for a drunk driving charge. When you see the police lights in your rear-view mirror, you might begin to worry, did you have too much? You don’t have much time to react, but try and stay calm because the next several minutes can have a big impact on your future. To learn more about what happens when you are pulled over by Mooresville police officers for suspected drunk driving, keep reading.
First things first, let’s dive into some legal definitions. What can a person be charged with in Mooresville, North Carolina? Is it a DUI? A DWI? The law (found in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-138.1) refers to the offense as Driving While Impaired or DWI. So what is a DUI? In North Carolina, it isn’t anything. Though the terms are frequently used interchangeably, DUI isn’t a recognized criminal offense in the state.
Second, what is drunk, legally speaking. The first surprising thing is that there is no one number across the board to keep in mind. That’s right, legal intoxication varies depending on the facts at issue, who is driving, how old they are and even what type of vehicle they are driving. First, let’s start with the strictest level of scrutiny, those drivers under 21 years old. In North Carolina, the law has zero tolerance for minors drinking and driving. The rules are clear that if a driver younger than 21 is found with a BAC of .01 percent or higher, then he or she can be charged with driving while impaired.
The second lowest level applies to anyone who operates a commercial motor vehicle with a commercial driver’s license or CDL. Anyone who is found to be operating a commercial motor vehicle of any kind on a public roadway can be charged with DWI if he or she has a BAC of 0.04 percent or higher.
How about the rest of us? Let’s say you are neither a teen nor a trucker, what BAC limit applies to you? It’s the standard 0.08 percent. Anyone who with a BAC of 0.08 or higher can be charged with a DWI in Mooresville. Interestingly, the law is written in such a way that this isn’t always required to justify a DWI charge. To the surprise of many people, the law says that operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs that have impaired your mental or physical abilities is itself a crime, regardless of whether your BAC is 0.08 percent or higher. If an officer believes you are impaired, that alone can be a sufficient basis for a charge.
Can you ask to speak to a lawyer? What about before being asked to provide a blood or urine sample? Absolutely. Let’s be clear about this, in North Carolina any person who is being asked to provide a sample of bodily fluids to determine potential impairment has the right to consult with an attorney beforehand. That being said, the right does not allow the individual to unnecessarily delay the test. It is important that you reach out as soon as possible. In most cases, the person will be given 30 minutes to locate and contact an attorney. Once that time is up, the person will be tested whether or not the attorney has been able to provide advice.
One of the most difficult aspects of a DWI charge is the pressure most people feel to plead guilty if the reading is .08 or higher. They view the charge as so black and white, forgetting about all the gray in between. Even if you feel your defense may be weak, simply agreeing to plead guilty can have serious consequences that you might not have considered. Though the charge is a DWI, and it is a driving related offense, it is still classified as a criminal charge and any guilty plea will remain on your record permanently. Before jumping to plead guilty, take your time, think it through and discuss your options with a skilled Lake Norman DWI attorney.
Regardless of what you ultimately decide, it is crucial that you have all the facts before you make a decision that can change your life. The DWI attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are knowledgeable and have handled these kinds of cases many times before and are happy to answer any and all questions you may have. If you have concerns, please take the time to reach out and call us at 704-370-2828 to set up a free consultation.