If you have been charged with driving while impaired (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) in North Carolina, you may be facing criminal charges for the first time. It can be more frightening going through the process of fighting your charges if you do not have an idea of what will happen in your criminal case. Here, we explain the basic steps that you can expect to happen after your arrest.
What You Need to Know About Your North Carolina DWI Case
After your arrest, you will be required to submit to a chemical test under North Carolina’s implied consent law. If you refuse to take this test, your driver’s license will be suspended for one year. You will also be booked where you will be fingerprinted, searched, and have your belongings confiscated until your release from jail. Then you will be placed in a holding cell until you are no longer impaired or until your first hearing. Here are the steps that will occur in your criminal case:
- Arraignment. Your arraignment will be the first court hearing in your criminal case. At that hearing, the judge will read the charges against you, and you will enter a plea. In addition, the judge will set the bail amount that you will need to pay to be released from jail. You may also be released on your recognizance, which means that an order requiring you to attend other court hearings is issued, and you are released on your promise to come to these court hearings without being required to post bail.
- Preliminary hearing. This is a court hearing where the prosecutor presents the evidence of your intoxication to show that there is sufficient evidence to convict you. The judge makes a ruling at the end of the hearing on whether there is enough evidence against you to continue the case. In some cases, a person charged with DWI may waive this hearing.
- Pre-trial motions. Before your case goes to trial, your attorney may file pre-trial motions, such as to dismiss the case against you or to suppress evidence that was improperly collected. The specific motions filed in your case—if any—will depend on the circumstances of your arrest.
- Plea bargaining. Depending on the facts of your case and your defenses, you and your attorney may decide that it is in your best interests to try to enter into a plea agreement. This may result in the charges against you being reduced in exchange for your guilty plea or an agreement on the reduction of your sentence.
- Trial. If your case is not dismissed and you do not enter into a plea bargain, your case will be set for trial in front of a jury or the judge. At that hearing, the prosecutor and your attorney will present testimony and other evidence and give opening and closing statements as to why you should or should not be found guilty. At the conclusion of the trial, the judge or jury would deliver a verdict.
- Sentencing. There will be a sentencing hearing if you enter into a plea agreement or are found guilty. Your sentence will be based on whether this is a first, second, third, or additional offense, and a number of aggravating, grossly aggravating, and mitigating factors. You could face a jail sentence, a hefty fine, probation, suspension of your driver’s license, and more.
Don’t Make the Mistake of Representing Yourself in Your DWI Case
You face harsh penalties if you are convicted of DUI or DWI in North Carolina, and a conviction will also result in a permanent criminal record that can affect your life on a long-term basis. Because of this, you cannot afford to try to represent yourself and just plead guilty. You need the assistance of an experienced drunk driving attorney who can build a strong defense to the charges you face—whether you are guilty or innocent. To learn how we can help you and what to expect in your criminal case, start an online chat to schedule your free case evaluation.