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Multiple DWI Offenses

The effects of a driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge can last a lifetime, but they dramatically increase when multiple DWIs are involved. If you are facing a DWI charge after already having been convicted of a DWI in the past, it is extremely important to contact an experienced DWI lawyer who is familiar with the laws in North Carolina and who can help identify the strengths and weaknesses in your case.

What are the consequences of a DWI conviction if you already have a prior (or multiple prior) DWI convictions?

DWI laws in North Carolina are among the strictest in the country. Consequences of a second DWI conviction may include, but are not limited to:

  • Having your driver’s license revoked.

    • If you have had a previous DWI conviction less than seven years prior to the offense date of your pending DWI charge, you face a minimum one-year license revocation without the possibility of a limited driving privilege.

    • If this would be your second DWI conviction within three years (from conviction date of the first offense to the offense date of the second charge), the revocation would be for four years if the second conviction is within three years of the first offense. You would be able to apply to the DMV for a conditional restoration of your driving privilege, but only after serving at least two years of this suspension.

    • If this would be your third DWI conviction and the most recent DWI conviction occurred within five years (from conviction date of the first offense to the offense date of the second charge), the revocation is permanent. You would only be able to apply for a conditional restoration of your driving privilege after three years.

  • Payment of up to a $10,000 fine;
  • Taking an alcohol education classes;
  • An extensive number of community service hours; and
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) in your automobile.
  • Active jail or prison time, up to 36 months
A prior conviction may be considered an aggravating or grossly aggravating sentencing factor.

After a DWI conviction, a sentencing hearing is held and a judge determines the appropriate sentencing level. The judge takes into consideration statutorily mandated grossly aggravating factors, aggravating factors, and mitigating factors. If aggravating or grossly aggravating factors exist, you are much more likely to face a more severe sentence. The reason for this is an aggravating or grossly aggravating factor is something that the legislature has decided makes the defendant who committed the crime more negligent or reckless, and therefore, that person deserves more punishment.

Examples of aggravating factors include, but are not limited to: (a) an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or higher at the time of the offense; (b) especially reckless driving; (c) negligent driving that led to a reportable accident; (d) driving with a revoked license; (e) speeding to elude apprehension; (f) speeding by at least 30 m.p.h. over the speed limit; and (g) passing a school bus; and (h) a prior DWI conviction more than seven years before the offense date of this case.

Examples of grossly aggravating factors include, but are not limited to: (a) a prior DWI conviction within seven years of the most recent offense; (b) driving with a revoked license, and the revocation was due to a previous DWI conviction; (c) serious injury to another person caused by impaired driving at the time of the offense; (d) driving with a child under the age of 18 in the vehicle; and (e) a prior DWI conviction less than 7 years before the offense date of this case.

Examples of mitigating factors include, but are not limited to: (a) Slight impairment and/or a BAC less than 0.09; (b) safe and lawful driving except for impairment; (c) a safe driving record, (d) impairment caused primarily by a lawfully prescribed drug for an existing medical condition, and the amount of the drug taken was within the prescribed dosage; (e) voluntary submission to a mental health facility for assessment after he was charged with the impaired driving offense for which he is being sentenced, and, if recommended by the facility, his voluntary participation in the recommended treatment; (f) completion of a substance abuse assessment, compliance with its recommendations, and simultaneously maintaining 60 days of continuous abstinence from alcohol consumption, as proven by a continuous alcohol monitoring system.

Under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-179, the judge considers all sentencing factors – grossly aggravating, aggravating, and mitigating – and sentences a defendant accordingly. There are currently six possible levels of punishment: Aggravated Level One and Levels One through Five.

If your prior DWI is considered only an aggravating factor, the judge counterbalances all aggravating factors and mitigating factors to determine whether you will be subject to Level Three, Level Four, or Level Five punishment. Mitigating factors are factors that a judge considers to lessen the severity of the alleged act or acts that show an effort by the defendant to address the harm they have done or steps they have taken to control their alcohol dependency. If the judge determines that the aggravating factors substantially outweigh any mitigating factors that may help your case, you will be sentenced as a “Level Three” DWI, and therefore maximum punishment of up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. A Level Three minimum punishment is either 72 hours community service or jail.

If your prior DWI is considered a grossly aggravating factor, mitigating factors cannot reduce your sentence. You therefore face a minimum Level Two punishment for your DWI. The Level Two maximum punishment carries a fine up to $2,000 and twelve months in jail. The Level Two minimum punishment is at least seven days in jail.

At what point does a driver commit habitual impaired driving?

Under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-138.5, habitual DWI offenders are those who have had three prior DWI convictions within the past ten years. A fourth DWI conviction becomes a Class F felony, and the driver shall be sentenced to at least one year in jail.

When can the state seize your motor vehicle?

Under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-28.3, the state may, in certain situations, seize your vehicle if you are charged with DWI. In North Carolina, a law enforcement officer may seize your vehicle at the time of arrest if you are charged with DWI and at the time of arrest:

  • Your license is already revoked for a prior DWI offense; or
  • You are not validly licensed and not covered by an automobile liability insurance policy.

However, just because your vehicle is seized does not mean you have no rights to that vehicle. If your vehicle has been seized, it is important your attorney knows the laws and how to fight for your rights. Arnold & Smith has helped many clients get their vehicles returned to them when they were seized after being charged with DWI.

What should you do when you are charged with a DWI if you have already been convicted of a DWI in the past?

Because North Carolina imposes such harsh penalties on drivers convicted of multiple DWIs, considering a quick or least expensive solution today could end up costing you far more tomorrow. Choose a solid, experienced lawyer with a proven track record of results.

For a free consultation, ask for Brad Smith at Arnold & Smith, PLLC by clicking here: Contact Us or calling us at (704) 370-2828.