If you’re facing a drunk driving charge in North Carolina, there are several things you need to know that may affect your case. These charges must be taken seriously as North Carolina is one of the toughest states in the nation when it comes to penalties for drunk driving. These penalties can have lasting impacts on your life—from fines to jail time to having your license suspended and acquiring a criminal record. It is almost always in your best interest to fight your charges. If you’ve recently been arrested for a DUI and would like to know more about your options or what you can expect in the coming months, contact Cannon Law Offices, PLLC, today. We serve clients in Greenville, North Carolina, and throughout the eastern state in Outer Banks, Wilmington, Hyde County, or Washington County.

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DUI Charges in North Carolina

In all states, if you are caught driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you may be charged with a DUI (also called a DWI — driving while intoxicated). If a law enforcement officer suspects someone of impaired driving, they will pull them over and perform a series of tests. The officer will be looking for outward signs of intoxication such as slurred speech, red or watery eyes, or the smell of alcohol. They will also likely ask you to perform a handheld breathalyzer test that measures your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). In North Carolina, you are considered intoxicated if your BAC is over .08%, and if you’re driving a commercial vehicle, the limit is .04%. If you’re under 21, you can’t have any amount of alcohol or drugs in your system and operate a vehicle.

Under North Carolina law, when you are charged with your first DUI, your license will be revoked for 30 days, your car will be impounded for ten days, and you must pay to have your vehicle released. However, if you’re working with a criminal defense lawyer, they can petition to have your driving privileges reinstated after ten days.

DUI Tests and Your Rights

North Carolina is an implied consent state, meaning when you get your license and agree to obey the rules of the road, you also agree to take a drug test if you’re lawfully arrested for a DUI. This applies to breath tests, urine, or blood. You can legally refuse a roadside breathalyzer test. But if you refuse, an officer has the right to take you to the nearest police station and have you take a more precise breath test there, and your license will be immediately revoked for 30 days, followed by a one-year standard revocation.

You can, however, legally refuse to perform field sobriety tests. These are tests that an officer may ask you to perform as they look for further indications of impairment, and there are three standard tests they use. The first is the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), where you have to follow an object (like a pen) with only your eyes. The second is walking in a straight line, then turning around, and the third is standing on one foot. While these tests can indicate impairment, they can also be faulty as some other conditions or circumstances may cause you to “fail” a test.

Possible Penalties

North Carolina imposes severe penalties for drunk driving, and their model for sentencing is rather complex. The state categorizes DUI charges into five levels, with the first level being the most serious, and these guidelines outline the penalties you might face. For a first-time DUI conviction, you will likely be a level III, IV, or V, but it will depend on the specifics of your case. For these levels, you could face jail time, fines, probation, or attendance of a substance abuse program, and judges have more flexibility with their sentencing. For levels I and II, which are usually reserved for repeat offenders and those with aggravating factors, you’ll face much higher fines, jail time, community service, and mandatory attendance of substance abuse programs.

Ignition Interlock Program

In some cases, you may have to agree to install an ignition interlock system in your car as a condition of having your license restored. This system requires you to pass a breath test anytime you start your vehicle to ensure you’re not impaired. For a first offense, you will likely have to have a system in place for one year, a second offense for three years, and the third offense for seven years.

DUI Attorney Serving Greenville, North Carolina

If you’re looking for a local attorney in Greenville, North Carolina, to help you through your DUI charges, contact the Cannon Law Offices, PLLC. You may feel overwhelmed by everything that’s in front of you, and you shouldn’t have to go through this alone. There are almost always steps you can take to improve your chances of a brighter future. Our team serves clients in Outer Banks, Wilmington, Hyde County, and Washington County, North Carolina.