DWI LAWYERS

What do I do if I’m charged with a DWI?

Being charged with Driving While Impaired does not define you.  An initial charge is the beginning of a process, and your first step is to find an attorney who will hold the State to the highest standard of evidence, and who will prepare your case for trial.  It is vital to become educated on every aspect of a DWI, from the initial appearance through potential collateral consequences.  This is the most impactful event of your life, be wary of being told what you want to hear, and instead seek counsel on the impact a DWI charge may have on both your present and future prosperity.  This incident will not prevent you from being your best self, so move forward with confidence that, with proper counsel, you will navigate this process successfully.  The DWI attorneys at Garrett, Walker, Aycoth & Olson are on your side.

It goes without saying that the ultimate goal is a complete dismissal of the DWI.  Despite the legislature and political judges, your DWI lawyer in Greensboro is still here to win your trial, protect your freedom, and restore your license.  Discouraging legal restrictions simply reinvigorate true trial attorneys.  You can be confident we will fight for you.

Your confidence also extends to your trust that we will always tell you the truth about both the facts and the law.  It is negligent to hide unfavorable information, and we are committed to tell you the good and the bad, as we want you to be our equal partner in the defense of your freedom.

How can an attorney help me with my DWI?

How can a DWI Attorney help you with your DWI charge is the most important factor in your case.  Even more important than winning or losing the DWI, you must be assured that you will never look back and wonder what if?  What if I had asked this question?  What if we had tried this strategy?  Proficient trial attorneys will explore, and relate back to you, every aspect of your case.  Trial strategy begins with learning everything you can about DWI law and court process, and continues in the courtroom, with a thorough investigation of the officer’s notes, memory, paperwork, video, and testing procedures.  Officers are professional witnesses, they do not like to lose in court, and certainly bring their own prejudices and bias to their work.  Their testimony, along with the objective evidence, must be studied, and every defense must be considered.

Why was I charged with a DWI?

A DWI, or Driving While Impaired, as defined by N.C.G.S. 20-138., is a misdemeanor.  In order to convict you of a DWI the prosecutor must prove three elements beyond a reasonable doubt.

1)  Driving or operating a vehicle

2)  On a public street or highway, or area open to vehicular traffic,

3)  While under the influence of an impairing substance; or having, at any relevant time after driving, a blood alcohol concentration of .08% of more; or, with any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance (listed in N.C.G.S. 90-89), or its metabolites in their blood or urine.

Remember, if these elements did not exist on some level, they could not charge you in the first place.  Do not be discouraged if the facts of your case match the elements, as it is deeper, Constitutional issues that the best trial lawyers explore.

How do I win my DWI Case?

Trials begin and end with reasonable doubt, a standard of proof afforded to you by the Constitution of both the United States and North Carolina.  The State has to prove every element of the misdemeanor charge beyond a reasonable doubt.  Additionally, they must worry about statutory violations and weaknesses in the officer’s factual presentation, all of which a skilled Greensboro DWI attorney can take advantage of.

The first challenge begins with the officer’s reasonable suspicion, or lack thereof, in initiating the stop or first contact.  The second, and most essential stage, is assessing and challenging the officer’s formation of probable cause to arrest.  Finally, the technical aspects of the arrest and the testing procedures should be questioned.  No stone should be unturned, no defense unevaluated, when it comes to protecting you from the draconian consequences of a DWI conviction.

No matter how positive or negative the facts of your case may seem at first, never give up without a through, complete evaluation of the entirely of the State’s evidence.  Never let anyone give you negative “odds” of prevailing in court, those are for salesman and snake charmers.  You must partner with a Greensboro DWI Lawyer, and seek your answers through hard work, investigation, honest evaluation and Constitutional experience.

What happens if I’m convicted of a DWI?

If convicted of a DWI, you must first determine the potential consequences.  Potential punishment is determined by assigning you to a Level of Punishment.  DWIs are punished at levels 5,4,3,2,1 and Aggravated Level One (A1), with a Level 5 being the lowest possible consequence, and A1 the highest. Below we have a chart which breaks down the factors that effect punishment levels for DWI’s and our DWI attorney goes through the nuances of how those factors effect your DWI level.

How do I know what DWI punishment I face?

DWI punishment levels are determined by weighing mitigating factors (good things), aggravating factors (bad things) and grossly aggravating factors (really bad things).

The absolute best situation is if no grossly aggravating factors exist.  In those circumstances, the lower level punishments, Levels 3, 4 or 5, which do not have an absolute requirement of jail time, would be imposed.  A judge will then weigh the aggravating factors verse the mitigating factors to determine punishment levels.  If the aggravating factors substantially outweigh the mitigating factors, then Level Three punishment is imposed under N.C.G.S. 20-179(i).  If the aggravating factors are substantially counterbalanced by the mitigating factors, or if there are no aggravating or mitigating factors present, then Level Four punishment, N.C.G.S. 20-179(j), is appropriate.  Level Five punishment, N.C.G.S. 20-179(k), is applicable when the judge determines that the mitigating factors outweigh any aggravating factors.

If three or more grossly aggravating factors are found, then the Aggravated Level One punishment must be imposed under N.C.G.S. 20-179(f3).  Two or more grossly aggravating factors, or one grossly aggravating factor under 20-179(c4), having someone under 18, with a mental capacity of an individual under 18, or a person unable to exit the vehicle unaided, would mandate a Level One punishment under N.C.G.S. 20-179(g), and the existence of only one grossly aggravating factor imposes a Level Two punishment under N.C.G.S. 20-179(h).

Judges look for these factors:

Grossly Aggravating Factors
I. Prior DWI conviction within the preceding seven years
II. DWLR under G.S. 20-28 for an impaired driving offense
III. Serious injury to another
IV. Child under 18, or person with mental development of child under 18, or a person with physical disability preventing (unaided) exit from the vehicle or the car at the time of the offense (If grossly aggravating factor number 4 is present, the defendant is automatically sentenced as a Level 1.)
Aggravating Factors
I. Gross impairment (.15 or above)
II. Especially reckless and dangerous driving
III. Negligent driving leading to a reportable car accident
IV. Two or more prior convictions for three-point driving offenses within the preceding five years
V. Prior impaired driving conviction more than seven years prior
VI. Conviction of any speed to elude, driving more than 30 mph over the speed limit or passing a stopped school bus
VII. Any other factor that aggravates the seriousness of the offense
Mitigating Factors
I. Slight impairment (.09 or less)
II. Safe and lawful driving at the time of offense
III. Statutory safe driving record (no driving offenses for which at least four points are assigned within five years of offense)
IV. Impairment by lawfully prescribed drugs within prescribed dosage
V. Voluntary submission to alcohol assessment and participation in recommended treatment
VI. Any other factor that mitigates the seriousness of the offense

If convicted, the Judge will adjudicate you at one of the DWI sentencing levels below, and you may be subject to either the prescribed minimum and maximum punishments.

LEVEL A1 – Three Grossly Aggravating Factors

o   Fine up to $10,000

o   Minimum of 12 months, maximum of 36 months active jail time; not eligible for parole; shall be released four months less the maximum Post Release Supervision, with four months of alcohol abstention, verified by a continuous alcohol monitoring system May be suspended upon 120 days minimum active sentence, with four months minimum to maximum of probation term of alcohol abstention, verified by a continuous alcohol monitoring system

o   Substance Abuse Assessment and recommended Education or Treatment

o   Any combination of these conditions, any other conditions of probation

LEVEL 1 – Two Grossly Aggravating Factors, or One Grossly Aggravating Factor Under N.C.G.S. § 20-179(c)(4)

o   Fine up to $4,000

o   Active jail time of not more than 24 months 
(may be suspended)

o   Supervised or Unsupervised Probation

o   30 days minimum active jail time, or 10 
days active jail sentence, with 120 days of alcohol abstention, verified by a CAM device (up to 60 days pretrial credit allowed)

o   Substance Abuse Assessment and recommended Education or Treatment

o   Any combination of these conditions, and any other conditions of probation, including CAM up to maximum probation term 
LEVEL 2 – One Grossly Aggravating Factor

LEVEL 2 – One Grossly Aggravating Factor

o   Fine up to $2,000

o   Active jail time of not more than 12 months 
(may be suspended)

o   Supervised or Unsupervised Probation

o   Seven days minimum active jail time, or 90 continuous days of alcohol abstention, verified by a CAM device (up to 60 days pretrial credit allowed); 240 hours of community service, if all active time is suspended (subject to alcohol abstention verified by CAM) and one of the grossly aggravating factors was either a prior DWI conviction occurring within five years of current offense date, or DWLR for impaired driving

o   Substance Abuse Assessment and recommended Education or Treatment
Any combination of these conditions, and any other conditions of probation, including CAM up to maximum probation term

LEVEL 3 – Aggravating Factors > Mitigating Factors

o   Fine up to $1,000

o   Active jail time of not more than six months (may be suspended)

o   Supervised or Unsupervised Probation

o   72 hours minimum active jail time, or 72 hours community service

o   Substance Abuse Assessment and recommended Education or Treatment

o   Any combination of these conditions, and any other conditions of probation

LEVEL 4 – Aggravating Factors = Mitigating Factors, or No Factors Present

o   Fine up to $500

o   Active jail time of not more than 120 days (may be suspended)

o   Supervised or Unsupervised Probation

o   48 hours active jail time, or 48 hours community service

o   Substance Abuse Assessment and recommended

o   Education or Treatment

o   Any combination of these conditions, and any other conditions of probation

LEVEL 5 – Mitigating Factors > Aggravating Factors

o   Fine up to $200

o   Active jail time of not more than 60 days 
(may be suspended)

o   Supervised or Unsupervised Probation

o   24 hours minimum active jail time, or 24 
hours minimum community service

o   Substance Abuse Assessment and recommended 
Education or Treatment

o   Any combination of these conditions, and any other conditions of probation

It is advisable to counsel clients that they may be sentenced, Assuming no grossly aggravating factors, you would be sentenced as a  Level 3, 4 or 5.  The most daunting thing to remember, however, is that sentencing judges retain tremendous discretion.  The minimums and maximums even within the individual sentencing levels themselves is immense, as even a Level 5, the lowest possible sentence, could result in either community service, or 60 days in jail, vastly different outcomes.

Other potential punishments to consider include:

o   Unlawful to Drive for One Year Upon Streets and Highways of North Carolina (Court Ordered)

o   DMV Revocation or Restrictions (DMV Required) + Potential License Revocation Fee(s)

o   Civil Revocation ($100) (Refusal, .08 BAC or Above, Breath or Blood, .04 Commercial Vehicle, or any alcohol if under 21)

o   Civil Revocation of CDLs (One Year from Civil Revocation Date)

o   Court Cost + Fine + Mandated $100 DWI Fee
 Jail Fee ($40 Daily Post-Trial)

o   Second DWI Conviction Requires an Ignition Interlock to Be Installed

o   Inpatient Treatment Cost
Restitution
SBI Blood Test Fee ($600)

o   Community Service Fee ($250)

o   Continuous Alcohol Monitoring System ($75 Installation + $12 Per Day, Average) Allowed for any DWI Conviction

o   FTA Fee ($200)
Driving Privilege Fee ($100, Pre & Post-Trial

o   Ignition Interlock (365 days w/ a Valid License or Privilege) (Typically $190 Installation plus two Months, $60 a Month)

o   Insurance (12 Points on License, Up To a 400% Surcharge)

What else can a DWI conviction do to me?

The collateral consequences of a DWI conviction is as important as the statutory punishments.  License revocations and restorations burdens, insurance costs, and the restrictions of rights and freedoms while serving probationary sentences may concern you even more so than potential jail time.  Counseling you about potential penalties should you reoffend is equally important to protect your future.

Can a DWI revoke my license?

To understand license revocations begin and end with the understanding that impaired driving is governed by the concept of “implied consent.”  Implied consent is a concept governing the privilege to drive in North Carolina.  By driving, you implicitly agree to a chemical analysis if charged with an implied consent offense, such as impaired driving.  Blood or breath tests can be refused; however the DMV may then revoke your license for a year.  Police officers may also apply for a search warrant to obtain the blood as evidence in spite of the refusal.

If you refuse, or if the breath or blood test results in .08 or more (or .04 if operating a commercial vehicle, or .01 if under 21 years of age), then your license will be revoked for at least thirty days, or forty-five days if surrendered more than five working days after the effective order, or the license is picked up by service of a pick-up order.  This is called a civil revocation.  The civil revocation remains in place indefinitely, if the civil revocation fee is not paid.

What if I have a CDL license and get charged with a DWI?

If faced with a civil revocation, a CDL license will be revoked for one year.  A 
hearing is allowed to contest the civil revocation before a magistrate or district court judge (§ 20-16.5(g)), but the request must be in writing at the time of initial appearance, or within 10 days of the effective date of the revocation. A subsequent hearing is required to be conducted within three working days if by magistrate, and within five working days if requesting a district court judge.

How long will I lose my license if convicted of a DWI?

DWI convictions automatically result in a court ordered one year license revocation.  The DMV may take further action that results in a longer period, and may require specific conditions prior to full or partial restoration.

A refusal revocation is active for one year, effective on the 10th calendar day after the mailing of the revocation order.  A DMV hearing is allowed to challenge the refusal, but must request in writing prior to effective revocation date.

A second DWI conviction within three years of a prior conviction results is a revocation period of four years.  For this revocation no limited driving privilege is allowed, and DMV hearing is only allowed after two years. A conditional restoration may be allowed if the defendant is not, in the period of the revocation, been convicted of a motor vehicle offense, an alcoholic beverage control law offense, a drug law offense or any other criminal offense involving alcohol or drugs; and the defendant is not currently an excessive user of alcohol, drugs, or prescription drugs, or unlawful user of any controlled substance.  The applicant may voluntarily submit themselves to alcohol monitoring prior to restoration consideration (a system approved under 15A-1343.3, a period of 120 days or longer) to show that they are not a current user of alcohol.

A third offense, with the most recent being within five years, results in a permanent revocation.  No limited driving privilege is allowed, and a DMV hearing is only allowed after three years.  A conditional restoration may be allowed if the defendant has not, in the period of revocation, been convicted of a motor vehicle offense, an alcoholic beverage offense, a drug law offense, or any other criminal offense involving alcohol or drugs; and the defendant is not currently an excessive user of alcohol, drugs or prescription drugs, or an unlawful user of any controlled substance.  They may voluntarily submit themselves to continuous alcohol monitoring program prior to restoration consideration (a system approved under 15A-1343.3, a period of 120 days or longer).  The revocation period may be additionally shortened through a DMV hearing after two years if the applicant can show an additional requirement of no alcohol having been consumed for the preceding 12 months (while being monitored by an approved continuous alcohol device).

An Aggravated Level One conviction also results in a permanent revocation, with no limited driving privilege available, and no DMV hearing for three years.

Other restrictions may include a .04 or .00 maximum blood alcohol level restriction when driving (for second offense within three years), an ignition interlock (if .15 BAC or second conviction within seven years, or as a requirement of any conditional or extended restoration), and mandated submission to chemical analysis. Requirements remain in effect for three years, or for seven years if permanently revoked.

Can I get a driving privilege if I have a DWI? 

Limited driving privileges are available for most DWI convictions if sentenced at Level Three, Four or Five.  A judge has discretion, and may to sign or further restrict the privilege, even if eligible by law.

A limited driving privilege allows you drive for specific purposes, depending on the underlying conviction and facts thereof.  These purposes can include work-related travel, household maintenance, education, court-ordered assessment, education or treatment, court-ordered community service, and emergency medical treatment.  Limited driving privileges are predicated on the condition that the driver may not drive after consuming any alcohol or controlled substance, or having any alcohol or any controlled substance remaining in his or her body (unless lawfully obtained and taken in therapeutically appropriate amounts).

To check your eligibility for any type of driving privilege, the following factors must be presented to the court:  (1) that you had a valid license or a license expired less then a year at the time of offense, (2) no prior impaired driving convictions during the last seven years, (3) sentencing (if a post-conviction privilege) at a Level Three, Four or Five, (4) no impaired driving convictions or unresolved charges filed subsequent to the offense date, and (5) the you obtained a substance abuse assessment.  Individuals under 21 years of age are not eligible.

When applying for a privilege, in addition to the privilege itself, the court should be provided proof of (1) substance abuse assessment, (2) insurance, on a specific form called a DL-123, dated within 30 days of presentation, (3) a letter from an employer, if requesting nonstandard work hours (standard hours are Monday-Friday 6am-8pm), or, in self-employed, and affidavit stating such, and (4) if applicable, proof of installation of the ignition interlock device (required if the applicant’s BAC was .15 or above).  Many jurisdictions require a copy of the applicant’s driving record for review.  Pre-trial privileges require a prosecutor’s signature waiving the formal hearing, or the formal hearing itself.  A limited driving privilege is $100.

PRETRIAL PRIVILEGE

A pre-trial limited driving privilege is used during the period of civil revocation.  An individual’s license is revoked for 10 days (30-day revocation) or 30 days (45-day revocation).  Eligibility requires:

o   At the time of the offense, defendant held either a valid license or a license that had been expired for less than one year

o   Valid DL-123 dated within 30 days of privilege application

o   Substance abuse assessment obtained (§ 20- 17.6)

o   $100 fee (to the Clerk of Court; cash only)

o   Employment Letter (for an application requiring work hours outside of standard 
hours)

o   Does not have an unresolved pending charge 
involving impaired driving, except for the charge for which the license is currently revoked under this section, or additional impaired driving convictions since being charged for this violation.

o   Privilege expires at the end of the initial revocation period (cannot be extended)

o   For employment, maintenance of household, education, court-ordered treatment or assessment, community service ordered as a part of probation, and emergency medical care

POST CONVICTION PRIVILEGE

A post conviction limited driving privilege is used post-conviction, if the client is sentenced at Level Three, Four or Five.  Requirements include:

o   Valid DL-123 dated within 30 days of privilege application

o   Substance abuse assessment obtained (§ 20- 17.6)

o   
 
$100 fee (to the Clerk of Court; cash only)

o   Employment Letter (for an application requiring work hours outside of standard 
hours)

o   No prior impaired driving conviction within 
seven years

o   At the time of the offense, defendant held either a valid license or a license that had been expired for less than one year

o   Does not have an unresolved pending charge 
involving impaired driving, except for the charge for which the license is currently revoked under this section, or additional impaired driving convictions since being charged for this violation.

o   Privilege expires at the end of the initial revocation period (cannot be extended)

o   For employment, maintenance of household, education, court-ordered treatment or assessment, community service ordered as a part of probation, and emergency medical care

.15+ BAC (IGNITION INTERLOCK) PRIVILEGE

Categorized as “high risk drivers,” anyone with a blood alcohol level of .15 or above faces these restrictions and must fulfill these requirements to obtain a limited driving privilege:

o   Valid DL-123 dated within 30 days of Privilege Application
Substance abuse assessment obtained (§ 20- 17.6)

o   $100 fee (to the Clerk of Court; cash only) Employment Letter (for an application requiring work hours outside of standard hours)
Does not have an unresolved pending charge involving impaired driving, except the charge for which the license is currently revoked under this section, or additional impaired driving convictions since being charged for this violation.

o   Privilege expires at the end of the initial revocation period (cannot be extended)
For employment, maintenance of household, education, court-ordered treatment or assessment, community service ordered as a part of probation, and emergency medical care

o   Not effective until at least 45 days after the final conviction
Ignition interlock required for 365 days with a valid license or privilege

o   Driving restricted only to and from the applicant’s place of employment, the place where the applicant is enrolled in school, court-ordered treatment or substance abuse education or treatment, and any ignition interlock service facility (note: does not allow the defendant to drive for household maintenance, community service, or during work or for work-related purposes)

REFUSAL LIMITED DRIVING PRIVILEGE

Refusal revocations may be mitigated through the use of a limited driving privilege, with these stipulations:

o   At the time of the refusal, no prior willful 
refusals within preceding seven years

o   The underlying charge did not involve death 
or critical injury to another

o   The defendant’s license has been revoked for 
at least six months for the refusal

o   Substance abuse assessment obtained (§ 20-17.6) and recommended education or treatment has 
been completed

o   Underlying offense disposed of either by 
means other than conviction, or by a Level 3, 4 or 5 punishment, and at least one of the mandatory conditions of probation has been complied with (substance abuse assessment and treatment).

o   At the time of the offense, defendant held either a valid license or a license that had been expired for less than one year

o   Valid DL-123 dated within 30 days of privilege application

o   Substance abuse assessment obtained (§ 20- 17.6)

o   $100 fee (to the Clerk of Court; cash only)

o   Employment Letter (for an application requiring work hours outside of standard 
hours)

o   Does not have an unresolved pending charge 
involving impaired driving, except for the charge for which the license is currently revoked under this section, or additional impaired driving convictions since being charged for this violation.

What can I do if I’m charged with a DWI?

The best thing to do if charged with a DWI is to call our DUI lawyers in Greensboro immediately.  We potentially can get you driving again, and restore normalcy.  We can properly advise you of the true nature of a DWI, and suspend the stress caused by rumors and faulty internet searches.  Remember, we are here to help, and we are confident we can.