What Is the Difference Between a DUI and DWI in North Carolina?

North Carolina law does not recognize a difference between the crimes of DUI and DWI. DUI stands for Driving while Under the Influence. North Carolina law refers to driving while intoxicated as a DWI (driving while impaired), while other states refer to the crime as DUIs. You would face a DWI charge if you were accused of driving while intoxicated in North Carolina. Under North Carolina law, the law recognizes and punishes impairment, regardless of whether it was caused by alcohol, prescription, or unlawful controlled substances.

What Are My Options if I Have Been Charged With a DWI in North Carolina?

If you have been charged with a DWI in North Carolina, you may think you have no legal option other than accepting the prosecutor's offer for a plea arrangement and paying the penalties. In reality, an experienced DWI attorney can help you avoid the most severe consequences of a guilty plea.

Remembering that you are considered innocent until the prosecutor proves that you are guilty is crucial. A skilled attorney may be able to successfully petition the court to suppress evidence gained through unconstitutional means, challenge whether the law enforcement officer had probable cause to arrest you, and work diligently to find the best strategies to dismiss the charges against you.

How Do Prosecutors Prove DWI Charges

The most significant determining Factor related to whether you are charged with a DWI in North Carolina involves your blood alcohol concentration level (BAC). Your BAC determines the percentage of alcohol that is in your blood. The higher the percentage, the more alcohol you have consumed and the more likely you will be to drive in a dangerous manner.

Law enforcement officers can still charge you with a DWI even if they did not conduct a breathalyzer test, blood test, or urine test to determine whether you are intoxicated. They can use circumstantial evidence, including dangerous behaviors on the road, to show that you were driving while intoxicated.

However, most prosecutors prefer to bring charges when there is test-based evidence that the driver was intoxicated. When a driver is 21 years or older and they have a BAC of .08% or higher, they can be charged with a DWI.

Does North Carolina Have a Zero-Tolerance Law for DWIs?

North Carolina does have a zero-tolerance DWI law for drivers under the age of 21. Any amount of alcohol intake for drivers under 21 can result in a DWI charge. In other words, even if a driver only has half of a can of beer, which results in a .01% BAC, they can still potentially face DWI charges.

Any appreciable amount of alcohol or controlled substance can result in a charge. Commercial drivers are also held to higher standards in terms of DWI charges. As a result, commercial drivers and drivers who have already been convicted of a prior DWI can be charged with a DWI if they have a BAC of .04% or higher.

Field Sobriety Tests

Blood, breathalyzer, and urine tests are not the only tests for DWIs in North Carolina. If you have been pulled over for driving erratically or dangerously, the law enforcement officer may choose to have you participate in a field sobriety test.

These tests will assess the driver's physical and mental capabilities by standing on one leg, walking a straight line, conducting a speech test, and other tests. After observing how the driver completes these tests, they may ask the driver to take a chemical test to confirm whether the driver was under the influence of alcohol.

Other Offenses Classified as DWIs in North Carolina

In addition to driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs being illegal, other acts can result in a DWI charge in North Carolina. For example, having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle, having an open or closed container on the passenger side of a commercial vehicle, or helping a minor contain alcohol are all considered DWI-related offenses.

Contact a Charlotte DWI Attorney in North Carolina

If you have been charged with a DWI in Charlotte, North Carolina, it is crucial that you reach out to an attorney as soon as possible. Before you accept a plea bargain, learn more about your options by contacting an attorney who understands North Carolina law and the criminal justice system. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC, as soon as possible to schedule a free case evaluation and learn more about how we can represent your best interests.