Kurtz & Blum, PLLC - Criminal Justice Attorney

DWI Attorneys

Being arrested and convicted of DWI — driving while impaired — in North Carolina can be a scary and costly experience. Even at the lowest level of punishment, a North Carolina DWI conviction can mean time in jail, hundreds of dollars in fines and court costs, and loss of driving privileges for a year. A DWI conviction can also be held against you by auto insurers, potential employers, and others for years to come.

It is a mistake to plead guilty to a DWI without a lawyer, and it is a colossal mistake to face a DWI charge on your own. Schedule a free consultation for an honest assessment of your case today by calling (919) 336-1541 or filling out our online contact form.

Do I Need a DWI Lawyer or Can I Represent Myself?

The short answer is: You should always have a good DWI attorney in your corner if you are charged with DWI. The worst mistake you could possibly make in a DWI case is to try to handle it yourself. The system is a maze. You should have counsel who knows which route to take and why. The alternative can lead to a very hard lesson.

Read through the section on “Will I Be Convicted?” Watch our videos. If after all that you still think that this is something that you can handle on your own, then that is your right and your prerogative. We wish you the best of luck … just don’t forget the old expression: The lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.

About Our Raleigh DWI Lawyers

At Kurtz & Blum, our Raleigh DWI lawyers will review your case for free and lay out your legal options for fighting a DWI charge.

Our seasoned legal team has the knowledge and experience needed to spot strengths and weaknesses in the case against you. Our collaborative team of skilled attorneys will develop a smart defense strategy that takes into account every angle of your case and the evidence being used against you.

If you or a loved one has been arrested for drunk driving in Raleigh, Wake County, or elsewhere in North Carolina, contact us today to discuss how we can help you.

Potential Defenses for DWI Charges in North Carolina

If you have been charged with driving while impaired in North Carolina, it is crucial that you have an experienced North Carolina DWI lawyer to defend you. There are opportunities to challenge your arrest and/or evidence at many points in the case, and our knowledgeable defense attorneys will work quickly to try to reduce or eliminate the damage a DWI can cause.

Among the first issues we will examine are why you were stopped by the police, as well as their justification for arresting you.

Other factors to be questioned include:

  • When and whether the officer informed you of your Miranda rights (i.e., your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney).
  • The arresting officer’s administration and/or interpretation of field sobriety tests. Officers must strictly comply with required procedures when performing Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.
  • Timeliness and propriety of Intoximeter testing and its results, including the prosecution’s ability to demonstrate proper calibration and operation of the Intoximeter used, and proper maintenance between uses.
  • The legality of “search and seizure” if blood was drawn to test alcohol content.

Avoiding a Guilty DWI Verdict in North Carolina

For you to be found guilty of DWI, the district attorney (DA) must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving a motor vehicle and were legally impaired at the time. “Beyond a reasonable doubt” is a high legal standard, and we will challenge the DA’s assertions and evidence at every turn.

Improper Field Sobriety Test Performance

Our knowledgeable Raleigh DWI attorneys have studied how to administer Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) so that we are skilled at cross-examining law enforcement officers who may have failed to perform them properly.

We know the proper instructions that an officer should give a driver, and the clues of impairment officers should look for. If we can show that the officer did not strictly comply with SFST procedures, we may be able to cast doubt on that officer’s testimony, thus making it more difficult for the state to prove your guilt at trial.

Improper Procedures When Testing BAC

We will work to counter your BAC (blood alcohol content) results with favorable evidence to raise reasonable doubt as to whether you were impaired. Further, the officer must take certain steps before administering the Intox EC/IR II, or Intoximeter, test.

If the officer fails to follow proper procedure, we may be able to keep your BAC result out of evidence, which will make it much more difficult for the district attorney to prove your guilt.

Can DWI Charges Be Dropped?

Our legal team may fight to have the DWI charges against you dropped. When appropriate, we will thoroughly discuss with you whether accepting a plea deal or going to trial would be in your best interest.

Limited Driving Privileges

If a DWI conviction cannot be avoided, we will make the argument that you need limited driving privileges so that you can drive for work and/or education purposes. We will also remain available to help you when it is time to have your driver’s license restored.

Schedule a free consultation with our understanding DWI defense attorneys today.

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Punishment And Sentencing for DWI in North Carolina

As in every U.S. state, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content at or above 0.08 percent in North Carolina. If you are younger than the legal drinking age of 21 (or drive a school bus or day care van), you can be found guilty of DWI with any detectible amount of alcohol in your blood.

Intoxication from alcohol is typically established per se (i.e., “in itself”) through breath- or blood-alcohol concentration tests. In North Carolina, the district attorney can also gain a guilty verdict by proving “appreciable impairment,” which could be shown through the arresting officer’s observations and professional opinion.

If police arrest you and find that you have a BAC of 0.08 percent — or 0.04 percent when younger than 21 or a commercial motor vehicle driver — the state will immediately suspend your license for 30 days.

If you refuse a breath test or blood test after a DWI arrest, you will immediately lose your driver’s license for one year. It may be possible to overturn that automatic one-year revocation in a separate hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Our experienced DMV lawyers can help you with that administrative hearing as well.

Once a guilty verdict has been rendered, the judge in a DWI case will determine a sentence based on the case’s “aggravating factors,” “grossly aggravating factors,” or “mitigating factors.” These include:

Aggravating Factors for DWI Cases

  • Gross impairment of the defendant’s faculties while driving, or a BAC of 0.15 percent or more within a relevant time after driving
  • Especially reckless or dangerous driving at the time of the DWI offense
  • Negligent driving that led to a reportable accident during the DWI offense
  • Impaired driving by the defendant while his or her driver’s license was revoked
  • Speeding while fleeing or attempting to elude apprehension for DWI
  • Speeding at least 30 miles per hour over the legal limit during the DWI offense
  • Passing a stopped North Carolina school bus
  • Any other factor that aggravates the seriousness of the DWI offense

Grossly Aggravating Factors for DWI Cases

  • A prior DWI conviction:
    • Within seven years of the current offense; or
    • Occurring after the date of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced, prior to or simultaneously with the present sentencing
  • Driving with a driver’s license having been revoked for a prior DWI
  • Causing serious injury to another person through impaired driving at the time of the DWI offense (e.g., a drunk driving accident)
  • Having a child younger than 16 years old in the vehicle at the time of the DWI offense

Mitigating Factors for DWI Cases (in the defendant’s favor)

  • Slight impairment of the defendant’s faculties resulting solely from alcohol, and a BAC that did not exceed 0.09 percent at any relevant time after driving
  • Slight impairment of the defendant’s faculties, resulting solely from alcohol, with no chemical analysis having been available to the defendant at the time of the DWI charge
  • Driving that was safe and lawful at the time of arrest, except for the impairment of the defendant’s faculties
  • A safe driving record
  • Impairment of the defendant’s faculties that was caused primarily by a lawfully prescribed drug for an existing medical condition, with the amount of the drug taken being within the prescribed dosage
  • The defendant’s voluntary submission to a mental health facility for an alcohol and drug abuse assessment after the current DWI charge and, if recommended by the facility, voluntary participation in the recommended DWI substance abuse treatment

North Carolina DWI Sentencing

With guilt and the above factors of the case in mind, the judge may impose a sentence that is based on the level of the crime.

Level V — Punishable by a fine up to $200 and can result in 24 hours to 60 days in jail. A judge can suspend the sentence once the driver has spent 24 hours in jail or performed 24 hours of community service.

Level IV — Punishable by a fine up to $500 and 48 hours to 120 days in jail. A judge can suspend the sentence once the driver has spent 48 hours in jail or performed 48 hours of community service.

Level III — Punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and 72 hours to 6 months in jail. A judge can suspend the sentence once the driver has spent 72 hours in jail or performed 72 hours of community service.

Level II — Punishable by a fine up to $2,000 and 7 days to 1 year in jail. A judge cannot suspend the minimum sentence of 7 days in jail.

Level I — Punishable by a fine up to $4,000 and 30 days to 2 years in jail. A judge cannot suspend the minimum sentence of 30 days.

Aggravated Level 1 or A1 — This punishment level is reserved for people with three or more aggravating factors. It was intended for repeat DWI convictions, but most often is handed out to a parent who is driving impaired with children in the car or young people driving their underage friends. Level A1 carries a potential fine of up to $10,000, a minimum sentence of 12 months in jail and up to 36 months. While that sentence may be suspended, the driver must serve at least 120 days in jail.

Is a DWI a Felony?

Drivers who have had three DWI convictions within the prior 10 years are considered habitual DWI offenders, and the current DWI offense is considered a felony. The Habitual DWI statute requires a minimum active jail term of 1 year, which cannot be suspended. Felony DWI offenders must also go through a substance abuse program while in jail or as a condition of parole. Under current law, people convicted of habitual DWI can never again be licensed to drive legally in North Carolina.

Driving Privilege Revocation After a DWI in NC

In addition to a monetary fine and a sentence, a DWI conviction results in revocation of North Carolina driving privileges.

Revocation is longer for each subsequent offense:

First DWI Offense — 1 year’s revocation if there are no prior DWI convictions within the last 3 years (based on arrest date).

Second DWI Offense — 4 years’ revocation for a second DWI conviction within 3 years. There is a possibility for a hearing to restore your license after 2 years if you have completed a DWI substance abuse program and have made significant changes in your lifestyle. These changes will have to be verified by witnesses at the hearing.

Third DWI Offense — Permanent loss of N.C. driver’s license for a third DWI if the two most recent convictions occurred within 5 years. After 5 years without a license, the DWI offender can request a hearing by the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles to reinstate the driver’s license.

Getting a Driver’s License Restored

Drivers convicted of DWI must complete a substance abuse assessment and comply with any recommended treatment as a condition for having their driver’s license restored at the end of the revocation period.

Driving with a Revoked License in North Carolina

If a court convicts you of DWI while driving with a revoked license due to a previous impaired driving offense, the judge can order the vehicle you were driving forfeited. The local school board can then sell the vehicle and keep or share the proceeds with other local school systems, or keep the car for its own use.

The law does allow vehicle owners to get their cars back if they were not the driver convicted of DWI, but only if they can show the court that they are an innocent party.

Contact Our Raleigh DWI Attorneys Today

After an arrest on DWI charges in North Carolina, your next steps may have a serious impact on your future. You should obtain the assistance of a knowledgeable and understanding DWI defense lawyer as soon as possible.

Considering the substantial repercussions of a DWI arrest and conviction, you want a seasoned Raleigh DWI defense lawyer in your corner. Our DWI lawyers have helped clients through countless impaired driving cases, and we can help you, too.

At Kurtz & Blum, our DWI defense attorneys can walk you through what to expect and build a smart strategy to fight the charges against you. Schedule a free consultation with an attorney today by calling (919) 336-1541 or filling out our online contact form.

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

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