North Carolina DWI FAQs

Suppose you or someone you love has been arrested for driving while impaired (DWI) in North Carolina. It is important that you understand your rights. You will need to take some essential steps to protect yourself and your legal rights. After you are arrested, you may experience a suspension or revocation of your driver's license, which can result in a loss of employment. Working with an attorney can help you protect yourself, understand your rights, and develop an effective legal defense as you move through the criminal justice system.

What Does the Prosecution Have to Prove to Convict Me of a DWI in North Carolina?

According to North Carolina's DWI law, a state prosecution needs to prove the following elements to convict you of a DWI beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • You were driving a vehicle in a public place
  • While under the influence of an impairing substance, or
  • After having consumed enough alcohol to result in a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or greater from chemical analysis, or
  • With any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance or its metabolites in your blood or urine
Can I Be Charged With a DWI for a Controlled Substance I Consumed Days or Weeks Ago?

Yes, in North Carolina, you can be convicted of a DWI for using a controlled substance days or weeks before you were arrested. You can be arrested if a Schedule I controlled substance is found in your urine or blood. However, you can prove that the law enforcement officer did not have a legal basis subject you to the chemical test. In that case, your attorney may be able to have the test results suppressed successfully, and the charges against you may be dismissed.

I Was Arrested For a DWI After My Breathalyzer Tests Were Above the Legal Limit. Do I Have to Plead Guilty?

No, you are never required to plead guilty, even if a test result shows you were above the legal limit. You have other options besides pleading guilty. For example, you have the right to demand a hearing on the constitutionality of the stop and arrest. Your lawyer may be able to argue that the traffic stop and arrest violated your Fourth Amendment right to be free from an unreasonable search and seizure. Your case could be dismissed if a judge rules in your favor.

You also have the right to demand a trial and force the prosecution to prove that you were driving while impaired beyond a reasonable doubt. Breathalyzer tests are notorious for malfunctioning, especially if the person conducting the test has not received proper training or the machine has not been maintained. Similarly, many problems can occur with a blood test for alcohol and other controlled substances. Your attorney may be able to successfully argue that the results from your test should be thrown out. It is always wise to speak to an attorney before bleeding guilty.

My Driver's License Was Suspended After I Was Arrested for a DWI. When Will I be Able to Drive My Car Again?

If you have been charged with a DWI due to a chemical test result of .08% BAC or higher, your driver's license will be automatically suspended for 30 days. You can petition the court to provide you with limited driving privileges, so you can drive to work and school ten days after suspension of the initial driver's license.

What are the Penalties for a First-Time DWI Conviction?

First-time DWI charges can still be harsh and may even include jail time if there are any aggravating or grossly aggravating factors in your case. An aggravating factor would be driving with a child in the vehicle or a BAC of .15% or higher. The best case scenario would be a choice between 24 hours in jail or 24 hours of community service and a fine of up to $200 plus court fees and costs. Your driver's license will be suspended for a year, but you can petition the court to obtain a limited driving privilege for school and work. At worst, you could face a jail sentence of up to two years and a fine of up to 4,000.

Should I Contact a DWI Defense Attorney?

Yes, DWI charges are always serious in North Carolina, even if you are a first-time offender. The sooner you speak to an attorney, the sooner your attorney can investigate your case and gather evidence. Your attorney can begin preparing your legal defense. Contact the skilled DWI defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to schedule a free case evaluation.