DUI Myths & Misconceptions
Sept. 19, 2022
All charges for drinking and driving in North Carolina are known as driving while impaired (DWI). Penalties for a DWI are assessed based on an evaluation of aggravating, mitigating circumstances and on a first-time DWI arrest. You can never be sure of the penalties you’ll receive. People that violate multiple times can even have their vehicle seized and sold, with proceeds going to public education.
Misunderstandings and confusion about North Carolina’s impaired driving laws are not uncommon. Some think it safe to shrug off the first offense, figuring it’s easier to plead guilty and accept the penalty rather than fight something that will become part of their criminal record and haunt them going forward for at least seven years.
If you’ve been arrested or charged with driving while impaired in or around Greenville, North Carolina, contact our team at Cannon Law Offices, PLLC, immediately. We have the knowledge, resources, and experience to assist your specific situation. Our team proudly serves clients throughout eastern North Carolina in the Outer Banks, Wilmington, Hyde County, and Washington County, so reach out immediately.
DWI Charges in North Carolina
Generally, if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 percent or higher as measured by a breathalyzer or blood test, that is considered grounds for a DWI (0.04 percent if you’re operating a commercial vehicle). The state also recognizes the observation of physical impairment to be grounds enough for a DWI charge. In addition, the definition of having “actual physical control” of the vehicle has been expanded to include circumstances when your vehicle is not actually in motion.
For a first-time offense, penalties are assessed based on a multi-tiered system, where each DWI is assigned a “Level.” Level One is the most serious, and Level Five is the least. First-time offenders generally fall into a range from Level Five to Level Three. Levels are determined by weighing aggravating factors against mitigating factors.
Aggravating factors include speeding or trying to elude the officer, having a previous DWI, having a BAC or 0.15 percent or higher, and whether your license was revoked at the time of arrest, among other factors. Mitigating factors include a safe driving record, a BAC of 0.09 percent or lower, lawful operation of the vehicle other than the DWI, voluntary submission to a mental health evaluation, and more.
The very least penalty (Level 5) is 48 hours to 60 days in jail time or community service and a minimum fine of $200. You will also face an immediate driver’s license suspension for 30 days, with the possibility of limited driving privileges after ten days. You will also have to undergo a Substance Abuse Assessment and as a result, may be required to attend the state’s Alcohol and Drug Education Traffic School (ADETS).
The conviction will stay on your criminal record for seven years unless there are subsequent offenses, and your insurance company will either raise your premium or cancel you altogether.
Common DWI Myths and Misconceptions
People facing DWI arrest or charges will often rationalize the whole experience and chalk it up as just another experience in life that will eventually pass, and things will return to normal. This “shrug it off” approach is just one of many myths and misunderstandings about DWIs. Some all-too-common DWI misconceptions include:
A DWI Charge Isn’t Worth Fighting
As you can see from the above discussion, even a Level Five conviction will dramatically impact your life for years to come. With a criminal record, you will find it difficult to obtain employment, qualify for public benefits, or apply for professional licenses. In addition, you will no-doubt face sky-high insurance premiums or find it difficult even to obtain auto insurance.
You Must Submit to a Field Sobriety Test
A field sobriety test is a set of physical challenges that police may put you through to gauge your ability to drive without impairment. These tests include walking forward and backward heel to toe or holding your finger to your nose while standing on one leg.
By law, you can refuse a field sobriety test as you can a roadside breath test, and there are no legal consequences. However, the officer can take you to the station and administer a more precise breath test. If you refuse that, you will face an automatic one-year suspension of your driving privileges, and your refusal can be used against you in court.
When Stopped, I Will Answer the Officer’s Questions
People pulled over for a driving offense generally feel it is in their best interests to proclaim their innocence and explain what happened. This is not advised. You should cooperate with the officer by providing your driver’s license and other documents such as vehicle registration and proof of insurance, but you are at your own peril if you start blabbing out a defense of your driving.
In short, you may think you’re proclaiming your innocence, when in truth you’re giving police all the justification and evidence they need to pursue a DWI charge. Before answering any questions from police or prosecutors, contact a DUI attorney to advise and guide you.
I Have to be Actually Driving to be Charged With a DWI
While it is usually the case that a DWI will result from the observation of a driver operating a vehicle erratically, you can also face a DWI if you’re “sleeping it off” in your vehicle. The DWI statute equates “driver” and “operator,” so even if you’re asleep behind the steering wheel and the car is stationary with its engine running, you are deemed the “operator” of the vehicle.
Get Dependable Legal Advice
A DWI is a serious blemish that can stain your standard of living and enjoyment of life for years to come. Do not underestimate the seriousness of being charged with driving while impaired. A judge has leeway in determining the level of your penalties, and prosecutors and police make mistakes and sometimes abuse your rights which can lead to challenges in court. With your attorney, put up a good defense and present your case with conviction.
If you’re facing arrest for a DWI, or have already been charged in Greenville, North Carolina, seek experienced legal counsel immediately, even before answering any questions by police or prosecutors. Our team at the Cannon Law Offices, PLLC, stands ready to advise and represent you as you seek the best possible outcome.