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Teen Drivers and Alcohol and/or Drugs

It is illegal in the State of North Carolina for persons under the age of twenty-one (21) to possess or consume alcohol. Despite that, young people—including those not yet of legal drinking age—choose to possess and consume alcohol, and unfortunately, after consuming alcohol, many young people choose to drive while under its influence.

Many people—young and old alike—make bad decisions, and many bad decisions, once made, cannot be taken back. The bad decisions that lead to a DWI charge cannot be taken back. While a person charged with DWI may feel remorseful, that feeling will not resolve a DWI charge, and the State is likely to be unmoved by a DWI defendant’s remorsefulness. That is because both the prosecutors and judges who prosecute DWI offenders are elected by and are answerable to the people of the State of North Carolina. As a result of high-profile DWI crashes and deaths, the people of this state have demanded that law-enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges crack down on DWI offenders.

The bottom line is that the State is going to take your DWI charge seriously, so if you have been charged with DWI, you need to take the charge seriously.

Potential DWI Punishment

A DWI charge or conviction carries some serious short-term and long-term consequences, including the seizure of your driver’s license, points on your driving record, the mandatory implementation of an interlock device in your vehicle (if you are permitted to drive), not to mention possible fines and penalties including jail time. A DWI conviction will remain on your criminal history permanently, which may affect your job prospects and insurance premiums for years to come.

It is crucial that you hire experienced legal counsel to represent and defend you against DWI charges. Even if you feel you may be guilty of the charge, experienced legal counsel can help you obtain the best result in light of your past driving history, your personal and employment transportation needs, and other factors unique to your case. The sooner you contact legal counsel, the better your chances are of obtaining the best result in your case. North Carolina law grants to drivers charged with DWI numerous opportunities to build and present a competent defense. These opportunities disappear, however, with the passage of time. Unfortunately, most drivers charged with DWI do not even realize these opportunities exist.

The best thing you can do if you have been charged with DWI is to contact an experienced DWI attorney.

Alcohol and Blood Alcohol Content

Drivers who are 21-years-of-age and older are presumed to have been driving-while-impaired if their blood-alcohol content (BAC) is found to be .08 or greater. Blood-alcohol content is established using machines that analyze a driver’s breath or blood. Many law-enforcement officers use portable breath tests to establish whether a driver is under the influence of an impairing substance, however the results of portable tests are not admissible in a court of law. Breath tests performed using a device called the “Intoxilyzer” are generally admissible, as are results of blood tests.

Drivers who have not obtained the age of 21 are prohibited from consuming alcohol, so even if their BAC is less than .08, if they have consumed any alcohol, they may be charged with “driving after consuming.” This means that, for a young person, getting behind the wheel after having even one drink can engender serious short-term and long-term consequences.

Driving while under the influence of drugs

When a driver is pulled over and an officer suspects the individual is under the influence of an impairing substance, the officer may perform a portable breath test to determine whether the person has been consuming alcohol. If the portable breath test is negative but the driver is still exhibiting signs of impairment, the officer is likely to suspect that the person’s impairment has been caused by an intoxicating substance other than alcohol.

Many substances—from over-the-counter and prescription drugs to illicit drugs—may cause a person’s driving to become impaired. If a driver is under the influence of a drug—regardless of whether the drug was purchased over-the-counter, whether it was prescribed, or whether the person used an illicit drug—her or she may be charged with DWI. In many cases, the State may seek a blood test of a suspected impaired driver to determine the identity of the impairing substance as well as the amount of the substance found in a driver’s blood.

In any DWI case, the State must prove that a driver was impaired. This may seem like a foregone conclusion if, for instance, a person’s BAC is higher than .08. The .08 reading, however, merely creates the presumption that a driver was impaired. This presumption may be rebutted by evidence that, despite the reading, the driver was not impaired. The same kind of rebuttal evidence may be especially valuable to drivers in DWI cases involving drugs. In those cases, drivers may be obliged by the facts to concede that they consumed a substance that can, depending on the person and the circumstances, result in impairment. Not all people are alike, however, and people’s minds and bodies process alcohol and drugs in different ways.

The key in any DWI case is to make sure you have on your side an experienced DWI attorney who can vigorously defend you against the charge. An experienced DWI attorney can help you prove to a court that you either were not impaired or were not driving-while-impaired, or both.

If you have been charged with DWI, please do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC today to set up an appointment.