DWI Frequently Asked Questions

When you have been stopped for DWI in Mooresville, you may be scared and unsure of what to expect. DWI laws often have severe penalties, and if you are convicted you could face some difficulties such as suspension of your driving privileges, fines, and your vehicle insurance is likely to increase.

What is DWI?

DWI is the common acronym used for Driving While Impaired. A charge of DWI means that you have been alleged to have been operating a motor vehicle on a public street or highway while subject to an impairing substance. DWI is also commonly referred to as DUI or Driving Under the Influence. DWI and DUI are often used interchangeably. Alcohol is most commonly associated with DWI charges. However, DWI charges can also be made for drug use that causes impaired driving. Both illegal and prescription drugs can be considered impairing substances.

What is the Legal Drinking Limit in North Carolina?

When you drink alcohol, it enters your bloodstream. Measurements can be taken to determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). In North Carolina, the legal drinking limit is 0.08% BAC for adults age 21 or older. North Carolina has a zero tolerance policy for anyone underage. Anyone under the age of 21 will be prosecuted if they are found to have any alcohol in their system. Those with commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) have a legal limit of 0.04% BAC.

What is Implied Consent?

In North Carolina, as in many other states, drivers who are stopped for DWI may be required to submit to a DWI test. When you obtain your driver’s license, you must agree to consent to DWI testing if requested to take a test by a member of law enforcement. This is known as implied consent. Police may request that you take a breathalyzer test or submit to a urine or blood test. If you refuse to take the test, you will likely face additional penalties and repercussions. A first-time refusal will result in having your license suspended for a period of one year.

What are the Penalties for DWI?

The sentence that you will face for a DWI conviction varies based on whether there are any other factors that are considered aggravating or mitigating. The first step is to enter a plea. When you plead guilty or are found guilty of DWI, a sentencing hearing will be conducted. During the sentencing hearing, the judge will review the evidence in the case as well as any other factors that will be used to determine the penalty.

Punishments range from level 5, the most lenient, to level 1, which is the most severe. Penalties may include a combination of things such as fines, jail time, license suspension, alcohol program participation, community service, and probation.

What are Aggravating Factors?

Some factors may aggravate the charges and impact the penalties that are imposed. The judge can take these into consideration when determining your sentence. There are two types of aggravating factors.

Aggravating Factors include:

  • Gross impairment with a BAC of .15 % or more shortly after the arrest
  • Reckless driving or dangerous driving
  • Negligent driving that led to an accident
  • Driving while license is revoked
  • Prior DWI conviction(s) more than seven years in the past
  • Speeding of 30 mph or more above the posted speed limit

Grossly Aggravating Factors include:

  • Prior DWI conviction in the last seven years
  • Driving with a revoked license due to a DWI-related offense
  • Serious physical injury to someone due to impaired driving at the time of the offense
  • Driving while impaired with a child (under age 16) in the vehicle.

The judge must impose a sentence of at least seven days in jail if a grossly aggravating factor is found. If two grossly aggravating factors are found, the sentence will be at least 30 days. The judge may use discretion when imposing a sentence, which may be up to 24 months in jail.

What are Mitigating Factors?

Mitigating factors are those that are helpful in reducing the penalties associated with a DWI conviction. Some mitigating factors include:

  • Only a slight impairment at the time of arrest, not more than 0.09% BAC.
  • Driving safely at the time of the arrest. The only unlawful act was the impairment itself.
  • Having a record of safe driving within the last 5 years
  • The defendant voluntarily agrees to participation in a treatment program
Do I Need a Lawyer to Fight DWI Charges?

A DWI conviction can have a lasting negative impact on your life and the lives of your loved ones. It is best to try to fight DWI charges and try to keep from getting a conviction. If you have been charged with DWI, you will usually fare considerably better with help from a local, experienced attorney than without assistance. It is often best not to try to handle the case yourself. An experienced Mooresville DWI attorney understands the charges and knows how to present the best possible defense. Your lawyer will also be able to present additional mitigating factors that could be extremely helpful in sentencing if found guilty.

Contact the skilled Mooresville DWI attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC today for a consultation.