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Frequently Asked Questions About DWI Answered by the Experienced and Savvy Raleigh, North Carolina, DWI Defense Lawyers of Kurtz & Blum

DWI Lawyers of Kurtz & Blum Answer Questions 

I have just been charged with Driving While Impaired (DWI).  What do I do now?

Answer:

First and foremost, you need an attorney.  Securing an attorney’s representation will help ensure you get the best outcome in your case.  Further, you can make your attorney’s job easier by typing or writing the facts of your case. It is important to begin doing this as soon as possible while they are still fresh in your head.  Important facts include, but are not limited to:

  • Why the officer pulled you
  • What questions the officer asked you
  • When and if the officer informed you of your Miranda rights (i.e., your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney)
  • What field sobriety tests, if any, the officer had you perform
  • The results of your Intoximeter blow, if any

I don’t think I have a good case.  Can I just plead guilty to a lesser charge?

Answer:

In North Carolina, District Attorneys will not reduce a DWI charge to a lesser charge.  Therefore, if you are convicted it will be a DWI conviction. 

If I can’t improve upon my charge, why should I hire a DWI lawyer?

Answer:

Attorneys know North Carolina’s DWI laws and understand what charging officers must do throughout the DWI process.  Therefore, we can spot strengths and weaknesses in your case.  If yours is a good case, we will take it to trial and fight to have you found not guilty.  If we do not think you will be successful at trial, we can potentially get you a better outcome, which you may not be able to do on your own.

Savvy Lawyers of Kurtz & Blum

I lost my license for 30 days following my charge, but I absolutely have to drive for work.  What can I do?

Answer:

North Carolina chemical analysts measure your breath alcohol concentration (BAC) with the Intoximeter EC/IR II machine.  If it measures your BAC to be .08 or above, the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) suspends your license for 30 days. While you can’t do any driving whatsoever for the first ten days of your 30 day suspension, we can get you a limited driving privilege good from the eleventh day to the 30th day.  Bring us the following items, and we’ll take care of the rest:

  • A certified copy of your driving record
  • A DL-123 form from your insurance company
  • A Substance Abuse Assessment from a drug and alcohol counseling center
  • A signed letter from your employer on your employer’s letterhead stating the hours during which you need to drive if you need to drive outside the standard hours of 6:00am to 8:00pm Monday through Friday.
  • $100

The officer had me perform several tests.  What’s the purpose of these tests?

Answer:

Law enforcement officers offer suspects the opportunity “to prove their innocence” by performing Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs).  The true purpose of these tests, however, is to gather evidence to use against you at trial.  There are two types of FSTs: Standardized Field Sobriety Tests and Non-Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. The three Standardized Field Sobriety Tests are the Walk-and-Turn Test, the One-Leg-Stand Test, and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test.  Non-Standardized Tests include the Finger Dexterity Test, the Alphabet Test, and the Romberg Balance Test.  In particular, officers must strictly comply with the required procedures when performing the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.  If your attorney can show that the officer did not strictly comply, he can keep it from being admitted as evidence against you, making it more difficult for the state to prove your guilt at trial.

I want to fight my DWI charge.  What can I do?

Answer:

Your attorney can challenge your DWI at three different stages throughout the process.  The first stage is the stop.  An officer cannot legally stop you if you aren’t breaking a law or driving erratically.  If your attorney convinces the judge that the officer had no reason to pull you, the judge will dismiss your case. 

The second stage is at the arrest.  You may have heard that an officer must have probable cause that you’ve committed a crime to arrest you for that crime.  Probable cause is the culmination of everything up to the point of arrest, including your driving, the officer’s observations of you, and your performance on the Field Sobriety Tests.  If your attorney shows the judge that the evidence at this stage of the investigation did not add up to probable cause, the judge will dismiss your case. 

Lastly, you must not forget that to be found guilty of DWI, the District Attorney has the burden of proving that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  Beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest legal standard we have.

I blew over a 0.08.  Does that mean I’m automatically guilty of DWI?

Answer:

No.  If you were automatically guilty, there would be no reason to require you to be present in court.  Your attorney can still counter this evidence with favorable evidence and raise reasonable doubt as to whether you were impaired.  More importantly, the officer must take certain steps before administering the EC/IR-II test.  If he fails to follow these steps, there are ways your attorney can keep your BAC result out of evidence, which will make it much more difficult for the District Attorney to prove your guilt.

The officer didn’t have me take the EC/IR-II test and didn’t measure my BAC.  Does that mean I can’t be found guilty of DWI?

Answer:

No.  Under North Carolina law, the District Attorney can prove impairment in one of two ways.  The easiest way is to offer a BAC result from a EC/IR-II test.  The District Attorney can also prove “appreciable impairment,” which he could show from the officer’s observations and professional opinion.  Though a case of appreciable impairment may be more difficult for the State, you can still be found guilty of DWI absent a BAC result.

I’ve been convicted of DWI and I lost my license for a year, but I need to be able to drive.  Can I do anything?

Answer:

Yes.  Though you will be considered unlicensed for the entire suspension period, an attorney can help you get a limited driving privilege so that you can drive for work and education purposes. To get a limited driving privilege, you’ll need the following:

  • A certified copy of your driving record
  • A DL-123 form from your insurance company
  • A Substance Abuse Assessment from a drug and alcohol counseling center
  • A signed letter from your employer on your employer’s letterhead stating the hours during which you need to drive if you need to drive outside the standard hours of 6:00am to 8:00pm Monday through Friday.
  • $100

Bring these documents to us and we will get your limited driving privilege as soon as possible.

I refused to submit to a chemical analysis and lost my license for a year.  Can I get a limited driving privilege?

Answer:

Generally, no.  North Carolina is an implied consent state, which means that any person who drives a vehicle on a highway or public vehicular area thereby gives consent to a chemical analysis if charged with an implied consent offense.  DWI is one such offense.  The penalty for refusal is a one year suspension of your license.  You may make a written request for a hearing before the DMV to appeal your revocation.  If the DMV upholds your suspension, you may request a hearing in Superior Court within 30 days of the DMV hearing.  It is also possible under some circumstances to obtain a limited driving privilege following six months of the one year suspension period.  You may be eligible if you:

  • Have no DWIs in the preceding seven years;
  • Have not refused to submit to a chemical analysis in the preceding seven years;
  • The DWI with which you are charged did not involve death or serious injury;
  • You have not been charged or convicted of an implied consent offense subsequent to the refusal;
  • You’ve obtained a substance abuse assessment from a drug and alcohol counseling center and completed the recommended treatment; and
  • The DWI charge from which the refusal arose has been disposed of either by no conviction or a Level 3, 4, or 5 DWI conviction, and you’ve complied with at least one of your conditions of probation.

Can I have a hearing even if I no longer live in North Carolina?

Answer:

Absolutely. Often, your state of residence will not issue you a license until your suspension is cleared up in North Carolina. You may have to arrange to travel to North Carolina to attend the hearing, but we can often schedule hearings to best fit your schedule. If we are successful, North Carolina will issue you a clearance letter which should allow your home state to license you to drive in that jurisdiction.

If the hearing is successful, will I get a license that very day?

Answer:

Not exactly. Most DMV officers will allow only a conditional restoration of your driving privilege. That could mean that you are given a restricted license with a curfew or that you must install an Interlock device on your car which requires that you blow into the alcohol-measuring instrument before the ignition will engage. If your license has been taken for medical reasons, a DMV panel will probably require that you submit to an additional medical exam within one year in order to verify that your medical condition is either in remission or is successfully controlled with drug therapy.

What if I have had a DMV hearing before and not been successful?

Answer:

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That adage has never been more true than with DMV hearings. Many times, citizens walk into a hearing unprepared for the types of questions that the officer will be asking. At Kurtz & Blum, PLLC, we believe that the only way to be fully prepared is to be over prepared. If you’re serious about doing it right this time, give us a call.

Can I win a DMV hearing if I still drink from time to time but never to excess?

Answer:

You could still be successful at a DMV hearing. The important thing is to prove that you are a responsible drinker who would never get behind the wheel after any amount of alcohol.

What if I am still driving on the sly?

Answer:

A DMV hearing officer will want to know that you are not driving at all – for any reason. The first key to winning a DMV hearing is to understand that driving in North Carolina is a privilege, not a right. Respecting that privilege is central to restoring that privilege.

What if I have been convicted of Felony Habitual DWI?

Answer:

You can never have a hearing to restore your driver’s license in this state. North Carolina law forbids it.

 

Our DWI attorneys help people throughout Wake County, North Carolina.  We frequently handle offenses arising out of the following cities: Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina, Wake Forest, Morrisville, Zebulon, Apex, Wendell, Rolesville, Garner, New Hope, Knightdale, Raleigh and Cary.