Common Questions and Helpful Answers About NC Criminal and DWI Charges
It is natural to have many questions and concerns when charged with a crime in North Carolina. These charges can have serious consequences and long-lasting effects on those charged with their families, so they need reliable answers quickly. Here, Todd Browning and Howard Long share their answers to many of these tough questions. Find out their thoughts on DWI, traffic charges, and many other crimes.
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How do police decide who to stop for drunk driving in Charlotte?
Police officers in Mecklenburg County and North Carolina Highway Patrol are trained to look for numerous visual clues and driver behavior patterns when deciding whether to make an investigative stop of a drunk driving suspect. These visual clues, identified by a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study on impaired drivers, help officers determine if there is enough reasonable suspicion to justify pulling you over for DWI.
Outside of DUI checkpoints, police must have reasonable suspicion to legally stop you for drunk driving.
How Police Determine Reasonable Suspicion for a DWI Stop
The visual clues identified by the NHTSA fall into one of the following four categories:
- Problems Maintaining Proper Lane Position
- Speeding and Braking Problems
- Vigilance Problems
- Judgment Problems
Visual clues used to identify Problems Maintaining Proper Lane Position include:
- Weaving within a lane
- Weaving across lane lines
- Straddling a lane line
- Turning with a wide radius
- Almost striking a vehicle or other object
Visual clues used to identify Speeding and Braking Problems include:
- Stopping problems (too far, too short, too jerky)
- Accelerating or decelerating for no apparent reason
- Varying speed
- Slow speed (10+ mph under limit)
Visual clues used to identify Vigilance Problems include:
- Driving in opposing lanes or wrong way on one way
- Slow response to traffic signals
- Slow or failure to respond to officer’s signals
- Stopping in lane for no apparent reason
- Driving without headlights at night
- Failure to signal or signal inconsistent with action
Visual clues used to identify Judgment Problems include:
- Following too closely
- Improper or unsafe lane change
- Illegal or improper turn (too fast, jerky, sharp)
- Driving on other than designated roadway
- Stopping inappropriately in response to officer
- Inappropriate or unusual behavior (throwing up, arguing)
- Appearing to be impaired
If an officer observed you exhibiting any of these behaviors, he may be legally justified in stopping you for drunk driving, but not always. For example, if you make an illegal turn, you have likely violated the law and an officer is likely justified in stopping you on that fact alone. On the other hand, if you were weaving within your own lane only, an officer is not likely going to be justified in stopping you. When a DWI stop is based on the driver weaving within a lane, North Carolina law generally requires weaving within a lane plus some other fact in order for an officer to make a stop.
Find Out if Your Charlotte DWI Could be Dropped
If an officer did not have a legal justification for pulling you over, it may be possible to have your drunk driving charge dismissed based on that lack of reasonable suspicion. If you have been arrested for DWI in the Charlotte metro area, contact our Mecklenburg County DWI attorneys at Browning & Long, PLLC for a free consultation to evaluate your case and assist in making this determination.
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Will my NC driver’s license be suspended if I refuse to blow or if I'm arrested for DWI?
It depends. There are numerous instances where your driver's license will be revoked by North Carolina’s Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for issues involving or related to driving under the influence. The most common scenarios where the DMV will revoke your driver’s license is when you (i) willfully refuse to submit to chemical analysis (i.e. breath or blood test), (ii) are charged with and/or arrested for driving under the influence, or (iii) are convicted of driving under the influence.
License Suspension for Willful Refusal to Breathalyzer or Chemical Testing
The laws of most states, including North Carolina, highly encourage a person suspected of driving under the influence to submit to chemical analysis (i.e. breath or blood test). Such laws do so through the consequences implemented when a person refuses such testing. Specifically, North Carolina General Statute (N.C.G.S.) 20-16.2(a)(1) informs a driving under the influence suspect that they may refuse any chemical test, but doing so will result in their driver’s license being revoked for a period of one year, and in some cases even longer.
This often means that if you refuse a chemical test, your driver's license will be revoked for one year. It's important to know the difference between the various breath-testing instruments and the consequences of refusing to blow in these devices. For example, an alcohol screening test, often referred to as a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT), is a breath test that is typically administered roadside before you are arrested. Refusing to submit to this test is not considered a willful refusal and will not revoke your driver's license for a period of one year. Thus, an alcohol screening test is not considered a chemical test for this purpose. However, a breath test using the Intoxilyzer 5000 or Intox EC/IR II, as well as a blood draw, are considered chemical tests. If you refuse to submit to these tests, your driver's license may be revoked for a period of one year. The Intoxilyzer 500 and Intox EC/IR II are generally administered after you have been arrested and left the scene.
License Suspension After Being Charged and/or Arrested for DWI
Under North Carolina General Statute (N.C.G.S.) 20-16.5(b), a person driving under the influence is subject to civil revocation of their driver’s license if the following applies:
- A law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person has committed an implied consent offense;
- The person is charged with an implied consent offense;
- The law enforcement officer and the chemical analyst comply with the procedures of G.S. 20-16.2 and G.S. 20-139.1 in requiring the person's submission to or procuring a chemical analysis; and
- The person
- Willfully refuses to submit to the chemical analysis;
- Has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more within a relevant time after the driving;
- Has an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more at any relevant time after the driving of a commercial motor vehicle; or
- Has any alcohol concentration at any relevant time after the driving and the person is under 21 years of age.
When your driver's license is revoked under N.C.G.S. 20-16.5(b), the minimum period of revocation is either 30 or 45 days depending on when your driver’s license was surrendered. If your driver’s license is surrendered within five (5) working days of the revocation (generally the day you were charged), the minimum revocation period is 30 days. If your driver’s license is not surrendered within five (5) working days of the revocation, the minimum revocation is generally 45 days from the date you surrender your driver’s license. Additionally, if you have a pending driving under the influence charge or other implied consent offense, your driver's license will be suspended indefinitely until all pending charges are resolved.
License Suspension After a Drunk Driving Conviction
A conviction for driving under the influence results in a mandatory revocation of a person’s driver’s license by the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) under North Carolina General Statute (N.C.G.S.) 20-17(a)(2). The length of such driver’s license revocation largely depends on whether you have any prior impaired driving convictions, and if so, the amount of time that has passed since those convictions.
Contact Our Charlotte DWI License Restoration Lawyers
If your driver’s license has been revoked due to one of the three common scenarios discussed under this question, it is important to remember that there are often circumstances where a you may be able to legally drive with a limited driving privilege. The attorneys at Browning & Long, PLLC can assist you in getting you back on the road as soon as possible.
What factors will the court consider when sentencing me for a DUI conviction in Mecklenburg County?
If you have been convicted of DUI in Mecklenburg County, the level of punishment of you will face is determined by the existence and balancing of what are called grossly aggravating factors, aggravating factors, or mitigating factors.
Grossly Aggravating Factors for DUI Sentencing
Grossly aggravating factors are seen as more serious than aggravating factors. The State must prove any grossly aggravating factor beyond a reasonable doubt. With that, the first step in determining the level of punishment you will face if convicted of DUI is to find out whether any grossly aggravating factors exist.
Four grossly aggravating factors:
- A prior conviction for a DUI related offense (See N.C.G.S. 20-4.01(24a) for the list of offenses) if:
- the prior conviction occurred within seven years of the current DUI offense date;
- the prior conviction occurred after the current DUI offense date, but before or at the same time as the sentencing in the current DUI case; or
- the prior conviction was in District Court, the conviction was appealed to Superior Court, the appeal was withdrawn or the case was remanded back to District Court, and a new sentencing hearing for the case has not been held.
- At the time of the current DUI offense, you drove while your driver’s license was revoked and the revocation was for a DUI revocation under N.C.G.S. 20-28.2(a).
- Your DUI caused serious injury to another person.
- At the time of the current DUI offense, you drove while:
- A child under the age of 18 years was in the vehicle
- A person with the mental development of a child under the age of 18 years was in the vehicle; or
- A person with a physical disability preventing unaided exit from the vehicle was in the vehicle.
Aggravating Factors for DUI Sentencing
As mentioned, aggravating factors are considered less serious than grossly aggravating factors. However, like grossly aggravating factors, the State must prove any aggravating factor beyond a reasonable doubt. When there are no grossly aggravating factors, or where grossly aggravating factors exist but the judge decides to consider any aggravating and mitigating factors as well, the next step in DUI sentencing is to determine whether any aggravating factors exist.
Nine aggravating factors:
- Gross impairment of your faculties while driving or an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more.
- Especially reckless or dangerous driving.
- Negligent driving that led to a reportable accident.
- Driving while your driver's license was revoked.
- Two or more prior convictions of certain motor vehicle offenses for which at least three points are assigned or which subject your driver’s license to revocation, if the convictions occurred within five years of the current offense, or one or more prior convictions of an offense involving DUI that occurred more than seven years before the current offense.
- Conviction under N.C.G.S. 20-141.5 of speeding to elude.
- Conviction under N.C.G.S. 20-141 of speeding by at least 30 miles per hour over the legal limit.
- Passing a stopped school bus in violation of N.C.G.S. 20-217.
- Any other factor that aggravates the seriousness of the offense.
Mitigating Factors for DUI Sentencing
After determining whether any aggravating factors exist, the next step in determining the appropriate level of punishment in DUI sentencing is to see if any mitigating factors exist. It is your burden to prove the existence of any mitigating factor by a preponderance of the evidence.
Eight mitigating factors:
- Slight impairment of your faculties resulting solely from alcohol, and an alcohol concentration that did not exceed 0.09 at any relevant time after the driving.
- Slight impairment of your faculties, resulting solely from alcohol, with no chemical analysis having been available to the defendant.
- Safe and lawful driving at the time of the offense, except for the DUI.
- A safe driving record.
- Impairment caused by a lawfully prescribed drug for an existing medical condition, and the amount of the drug taken was within the prescribed dosage.
- Voluntary submission to a substance abuse assessment and voluntary participation in the recommended treatment.
- Completion of a substance abuse assessment, compliance with its recommendations, and simultaneously maintaining 60 days of continuous abstinence from alcohol consumption, as proven by a continuous alcohol monitoring system.
- Any other factor that mitigates the seriousness of the offense.
DUI/DWI Sentencing Levels of Punishment
The determination of the appropriate DWI sentencing level of punishment involves balancing the presence of any grossly aggravating factors, aggravating factors, and mitigating factors mentioned above. The chart below summarizes the six sentencing levels and the corresponding punishments authorized by N.C.G.S. 20-179.
Aggravated Level One
Factors Fine Probationary Conditions Three or more grossly aggravating factors Up to $10,000 If suspended, must require 1-imprisonment of at least 120 days; AND 2-alcohol abstinence of at least 120 days to a maximum of the term of probation, as verified by CAM.
Imprisonment: 12 months minimum to 36 months maximum
Substance Abuse Assessment Required: Yes
Factors Fine Probationary Conditions 1. Grossly aggravating factor in N.C.G.S. 20-179(c)(4); OR
2. Two other grossly aggravating factors
Up to $4,000 If suspended, must require 1-imprisonment of at least 30 days; OR 2-imprisonment of at least 10 days and alcohol abstinence and CAM for at least 120 days
Imprisonment: 30 days minimum to 24 months maximum
Substance Abuse Assessment Required: Yes
Factors Fine Probationary Conditions One grossly aggravating factor Up to $2,000 If suspended, must require 1-imprisonment of at least 7 days; OR 2-alcohol abstinence and CAM for at least 90 days
Imprisonment: 7 days minimum to 12 months maximum
Substance Abuse Assessment Required: Yes
Factors Fine Probationary Conditions Aggravating factors substantially outweigh any mitigating factors Up to $1,000 If suspended, must require one or both of the following: 1-imprisonment for at least 72 hours 2-community service for a term of at least 72 hours
Imprisonment: 72 hours minimum to 6 months maximum
Substance Abuse Assessment Required: Yes
Factors Fine Probationary Conditions No aggravating or mitigating factors or aggravating factors are substantially counterbalanced by mitigating factors Up to $500 If suspended, must require one or both of the following: 1-imprisonment for 48 hours 2-community service for a term of 48 hours
Imprisonment: 48 hours minimum to 120 days maximum
Substance Abuse Assessment Required: Yes
Factors Fine Probationary Conditions Mitigating factors substantially outweigh aggravating factors Up to $200 If suspended, must require one or both of the following:
1-imprisonment for 24 hours
2-community service for a term of 24 hours
Imprisonment: 24 hours to 60 days maximum
Substance Abuse Assessment Required: Yes
Contact Our Charlotte DUI Lawyers if you have questions regarding a DWI arrest in Mecklenburg County by calling 980-224-4482.
- A prior conviction for a DUI related offense (See N.C.G.S. 20-4.01(24a) for the list of offenses) if:
How can I challenge my blood test results in my DWI case?
In North Carolina, a conviction for driving while impaired (DWI) comes with very harsh penalties, such as large fines, a jail sentence, and suspension of your driver’s license. In addition, DWI is a misdemeanor offense in North Carolina and a conviction would result in a permanent criminal record. Fortunately, there are defenses to these charges that you could have even if you are guilty of driving when intoxicated that may result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. One powerful defense may be to challenge the results of your blood test.
Blood Tests in North Carolina DWI Criminal Cases
In North Carolina, police officers are permitted to obtain the amount of alcohol on your breath or blood as evidence to be used against you in a DWI case. The amount of alcohol on your breath is tested through the use of a breath testing machine, and the amount in your blood is tested through a blood test. If you do not consent to this testing, the police would need to obtain a warrant to conduct the test, which they would often obtain. However, under North Carolina’s implied consent laws, you imply consent to this testing and would face harsh penalties for refusing the test, such as automatic revocation of your driver’s license and your refusal being used as evidence in your DWI case.
Common Challenges to Blood Test Results in DWI Cases in NC
A blood test is conducted by drawing your blood and testing it, and it tends to be the most reliable testing procedure. However, this does not mean that the results are always right. If you are successful in challenging the result, the prosecutor may not be able to use the most important piece of evidence against you, and the charges against you may be dismissed. Questions regarding the reliability of the tests may also help to obtain a more favorable plea agreement where the charges are reduced to a much less serious offense.
There are a number of defenses to blood test results, and which one is applicable in your case will depend on your facts. Your experienced DWI attorney will be able to identify the best defenses in your case. Here are some defenses that may apply to your case:
- Lack of qualifications. The person administering the test must be qualified to do so. Your attorney can examine the training and experience of the person who administered your test to see if this is a basis for a defense. Even if the person was qualified, if there are other questions of his competency, such as cases of his falsifying records, this could lead to challenging the use of the blood test against you.
- Chain of custody. In DWI cases, the police are required to follow specific guidelines in handling the evidence—including the blood drawn from you and your test results. To ensure that they were not tampered with, the police must account for them at all times or the chain of custody may be broken. Mislabeling the test tube or misplacing it for a period of time are two examples of when the chain of custody might be broken. If the chain of custody is broken in your case, the blood test result could be excluded from evidence in your criminal case.
- Calibration. Blood testing machines often need to be calibrated, like breathalyzers, to ensure that they work properly. In some cases, the calibration of the equipment used in a blood test may not be properly done and could lead to an error in the results. In this situation, the test results could be excluded or the accuracy questioned.
- Storage. Blood samples must be properly stored or it can result in elevated error rates. The yeast, sugar, and bacteria in the blood can ferment if not stored correctly—which can lead to inaccurate test results. If your blood sample was improperly stored, the results may be inadmissible.
Let Us Help Raise All Your Defenses in Your DWI Case
Were you charged with DWI? Our experienced DWI defense attorneys are here to help you aggressively fight the charges you face. We have the added benefit of being former prosecutors so we understand how they approach these cases. To learn more about how we can help you build a strong defense, call our office today to schedule a free consultation.
What speeding tickets CAN suspend my North Carolina Driver's License vs. what tickets WILL?
North Carolina is a strict state when it comes to speeding and you would be amazed at what speeding violations can suspend your North Carolina Driver’s license. In some instances, the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles has the option to suspend your license and in other instances, the suspension is automatic. Below we explain what types of speeding tickets can suspend your driver’s license and what ticket will suspend your license.
Tickets where the North Carolina DMV CAN suspend your license
In The following scenarios the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles has the option of suspending your driver’s license:
- Two convictions for speeding over 55 MPH within one year
- A conviction of reckless driving and a conviction for speeding over 55 MPH within one year
- A conviction of aggressive driving and a conviction for speeding over 55 MPH within one year
- A conviction for speeding over 75 MPH on a street or highway where the speed limit is less than 70 mph
- A conviction for speeding over 80 MPH on a street of highway where the speed limit is 70 MPH
Tickets where the North Carolina DMV WILL automatically suspend you license
In the following scenarios the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles will automatically suspend your driver’s license:
- A conviction for speeding 15 MPH over the speed limit where you are traveling greater than 55 MPH
- A conviction for speeding greater than 80 MPH
DO NOT JUST PAY OFF YOUR NORTH CAROLINA SPEEDING TICKET
Oftentimes, when you are charged with a speeding ticket the officer tells you to just pay the fine and you do not have to go to court. There are even instructions on many of the citations about how you can just pay off your citation without having to go to court. It is imperative that you understand that when you just pay off the ticket you are pleading guilty. As you can see, a minor run of the mill speeding ticket can suspend your driver’s license so whatever you do, do not just pay off your ticket. Speak to an attorney to see what options you have.
How Attorneys at Browning & Long, PLLC Can Help
Our experienced traffic attorneys have represented thousands of folks charged with speeding tickets. When you hire us to represent you for your speeding ticket we will negotiate with the District Attorney on your behalf and do everything in our power to ensure that your driver’s license is not suspended and that your insurance premiums do not increase. Specifically, our attorneys will seek to get the following results:
- Get your ticket dismissed. This is the best result. No points on your driver’s license or insurance and you do not have to pay any fines, fees or court cost.
- Amend your ticket to an Improper Equipment, a violation that will put no points on your driver’s license or insurance policy.
- Obtain a PJC (prayer for judgment continued). A PJC, like an improper equipment, does not put any points on your driver’s license or insurance policy.
- Lastly, we could reduce your speed to a speed that would not suspend your driver’s license.
What are assault with a deadly weapons charges that I could face in North Carolina?
If you are charged with assaulting someone in North Carolina, you could be facing misdemeanor charges—even if you never touched anyone. However, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or more serious felony charge if a deadly weapon was used in the assault. A conviction can result in you being sentenced to prison and having a permanent criminal record. Because of these very serious consequences, you need to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to help you build a strong defense to the charges that you face.
Misdemeanor Assault With a Deadly Weapon Charges
Most assault and battery charges are misdemeanor offenses in North Carolina. You can be charged with assault for threatening someone whereas battery requires actual physical contact. There are three general assault and battery crimes:
- Assault and battery that involves physically injuring someone else
- Assault, which can be an attempt to commit an assault and battery, or a show of force when it appears that an assault is imminent
- Affray, which is a fight between two or more people, in a public place that puts others in fear
There are a number of specific misdemeanor assault and battery offenses that are considered more serious, and the charge is a Class A1 misdemeanor rather than the less serious Class 2 misdemeanor charged in many simple assault cases.
Assault with a deadly weapon is one of the more serious misdemeanor offenses. A person can be charged with this offense if he commits an assault, assault and battery, or affray if he causes a person to suffer serious injury or uses a deadly weapon. While a deadly weapon is not defined in the statute, it can include a gun, knife, blunt object, or another object that is not generally considered a deadly weapon but could be used to kill a person.
A misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon carries these possible penalties:
- Jail sentence of up to 60 days for a first offense or 150 days if there were prior convictions
- Probation—either supervised or unsupervised
- Fine with the amount in the judge’s discretion
Felony Assault With a Deadly Weapon Charges
You could be charged with assault with a deadly weapon as a felony if you committed the assault with the intent to kill or caused serious injuries, or both. What constitutes a deadly weapon is not specifically defined and includes a wide range of potentially dangerous objects. There are two levels of assault charges, and both involve these elements of the crime:
- Serious injury. Although not defined in the criminal statute, an injury is considered a serious injury if it requires medical attention whether or not the victim actually receives medical treatment.
- Intent to kill. This means that the person who committed the assault intended to kill the victim, and the intent can be established through the circumstances of the crime. This can include threats, other words, or prior angry incidents between the accused person and victim.
Assault with a deadly weapon can be charged as a Class E felony if there was serious injury or the intent to kill. If there is both serious injury and the intent to kill, the crime is often a Class C felony. A conviction could result in these penalties:
- Class E felony. This offense is punishable by 15 to 31 months in prison, but a judge must justify the sentence if he deviates from the presumptive sentence of between 20 to 25 months in prison. In addition, if there are prior convictions, the prison sentence can be extended up to 63 months.
- Class C felony. A Class C felony conviction can result in a prison sentence of 44 to 98 months, with a presumptive sentence of between 58 to 72 months. The sentence can be increased to 182 months if there are prior convictions.
Given the risk that you may be sentenced to prison if convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, you should do everything you can to fight the charges that you face. Even if you are guilty, an experienced criminal defense attorney can raise defenses that could result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. To learn how we have helped other clients facing criminal charges and how we can assist you, call our office to schedule your free case review today.
If I recieved a civil revocation when charged with DWI in North Carolina, when can I drive again?
DWI Civil Revocation
When a person is charged with DWI, their North Carolina driver’s license is almost always revoked due to a DWI Civil Revocation. Your license is subject to such a revocation if:
- A law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to believe that you committed a DWI;
- You are charged with DWI;
- The law enforcement officer and/or the chemical analyst comply with the mandated procedures in requiring your submission to a breath and/or blood test; and
- You either
- Willfully refuse to submit to the breath and/or blood test;
- Had an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more within a relevant time after the driving;
- Had an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more at any relevant time after the driving of a commercial motor vehicle; or
- Have any alcohol concentration at any relevant time after the driving and you are under 21 years of age.
If your license is revoked due to a DWI Civil Revocation, there are three different ways our attorneys can potentially get you driving again.
- Hearing to Contest the DWI Civil Revocation
- Pre-Trial Limited Driving Privilege
- Wait for the DWI Civil Revocation to Expire
Hearing to Contest the DWI Civil Revocation
At Browning & Long, PLLC, this is the preferred method to getting you driving again.
Oftentimes, our attorneys can schedule a hearing in front of a judge or magistrate to challenge your DWI Civil Revocation. If our attorneys are successful at this hearing, your North Carolina driving privileges are restored in full; that is, there are no further restrictions on your driver’s license and you are permitted to drive as you did before being arrested for DWI. Additionally, there are no required fees or fines to pay to the State as required with the other options discussed below.
However, in order to take advantage of this approach, by statute, our attorneys must file the appropriate paperwork to request the hearing within 10 days from the date of your revocation. Don’t delay, contact us now!
Pre-Trial Limited Driving Privilege
If you missed the 10-day window to request a hearing to contest your DWI Civil Revocation, the attorneys at Browning & Long, PLLC can help you apply for a Pre-Trial Limited Driving Privilege. Once 10 days from the date of your DWI Civil Revocation have passed, a Pre-Trial Limited Driving Privilege allows you to drive throughout the remainder of your revocation - typcially to day 30 or 45 - from Monday through Friday, between the hours of 6:00 AM and 8:00 PM, for purposes such as household maintenance, employment, and education. In many cases, our attorneys can assist you in getting extended hours for certain purposes. However, unlike the hearing to contest a DWI Civil Revocation, there is a $100 filing fee, paid to the State, to secure a Pre-Trial Limited Driving Privilege.
Wait for the DWI Civil Revocation to Expire
When you receive a DWI Civil Revocation, the minimum period of revocation is either 30 or 45 days depending on when your driver’s license was surrendered. If your driver’s license is surrendered within 5 working days of the revocation, the revocation period is 30 days. If your driver’s license is not surrendered within 5 working days of the revocation, the revocation is generally 45 days.
If you were not able to take advantage of a DWI Civil Revocation Contest Hearing or a Limited Driving Privilege, your DWI Civil Revocation will expire after the 30 or 45-day revocation period mentioned above. Once expired, and only after you pay the requisite $100 DWI Civil Revocation fee, your driver’s license will be restored.
Does it matter to my attorney if I am guilty of committing the crime?
If you know that you are guilty of committing a crime, you may worry that your attorney knows that you are guilty even if he does not ask you whether you committed the crime. This may lead to concerns about how well your lawyer can represent you if he believes that you are guilty. However, an experienced criminal defense attorney knows that the focus should not be on your guilt or innocence but on the strength of the case against you.
Factual vs. Legal Guilt in Criminal Cases
It is important to keep in mind that the focus of your defense is not whether or not you committed the act but whether the prosecutor can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. This is the difference between factual and legal guilt. Here is how it affects criminal cases:
- Factual guilt. Factual guilt refers to what you actually did. However, an experienced criminal defense attorney will not focus on this because you can be factually guilty but not legally guilty. A good attorney will focus on your legal guilt.
- Legal guilt. Legal guilt refers to whether the prosecutor can prove that you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Whether you committed the crime or not, you are not legally guilty unless the prosecutor has enough evidence to convince a judge or jury to find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. So your attorney’s focus should be on this question: What can the prosecutor prove? His tactics may be to attack the strength of the evidence against you—whether or not your attorney believes that you are guilty.
Why Guilt or Innocence May Not Matter to Your Criminal Defense Attorney
An attorney has a duty to zealously represent his clients in criminal matters—regardless of the person’s guilt. Under our criminal justice system, everyone charged with a crime has a right to a vigorous defense. This is a protection all accused people have under the United States Constitution. An attorney does not have a duty to prove a client’s innocence, so it does not really matter to him whether the person is guilty. His duty is to prove the person’s defenses to show that he is not legally guilty.
Guilt is also not that important because criminal defense attorneys often feel like they never really know whether their clients are guilty or not. Even if someone confesses to his attorney, it does not mean that he really did it. He could be covering for someone else or have another reason for lying. In addition, he may not be guilty of this offense, but could have committed a less serious offense. For these and other reasons, attorneys often do not ask about guilt when talking to clients in criminal cases and instead focus their questions to clients on building a strong defense.
While your attorney has a duty to provide you with a defense if there is one to raise, this does not mean that he can lie for you. If he knows that you are guilty of the crime, he could not claim that you did not commit the crime as a defense. However, this does not preclude him from raising defenses that show the weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case against you.
Let Us Help You Raise All Your Defenses to the Charges You Face
Whether you are guilty or innocent, you may have strong defenses that will show that the prosecutor cannot prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, you will need the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney to identify and effectively raise your defenses. It is crucial to take this aggressive approach because it can result in the charges against you being dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense with less serious penalties. To learn more about our experiences defending our clients facing many different criminal charges and how we can help you, call our office to schedule your free consultation.
What traffic violations require a mandatory court hearing?
North Carolina has some of the strictest traffic offense laws in the country. Unlike many other states, a person who receives a traffic ticket will often be required to attend a mandatory court hearing. This means that even if you want to plead guilty and pay the ticket, you will most likely have to attend a court hearing to do so. However, an experienced traffic law attorney may be able to attend this hearing for you and obtain a better outcome with less harsh penalties than if you go to the hearing on your own.
What Are Waivable Offenses That Do Not Require a Mandatory Court Hearing?
There are a few “waivable” offenses where you can handle the ticket without going to court by paying the fines and costs prior to the court date. By doing so, you are waiving your right to appear at a court hearing. Waivable offenses are very minor ones, such as having a broken headlight. The police officer who issues the ticket should indicate on the back of the ticket whether the offense is one that can be waived. If it is, the costs and fines that you must pay should also be listed.
By paying the ticket, you are also pleading guilty to the offense. This can affect your driver’s license and automobile insurance costs. It is always best to consult with an experienced attorney before deciding to just pay the ticket to be certain that you do not have better options—which is often the case.
Traffic Offenses Which Require a Mandatory Court Hearing
The majority of traffic offenses require attendance at a court hearing in North Carolina. In addition, if you intend to plead not guilty to the traffic offense, you must attend the court hearing to enter your plea. Tickets that require a mandatory court hearing include:
- Tampering with an ignition interlock device
- Driving while a driver’s license is suspended, revoked, disqualified, or revoked for an impaired driver’s license revocation
- Driving a commercial vehicle without a valid commercial driver’s license or when the license has been suspended, revoked, or disqualified
- Failing to obey the instructions of a traffic officer or a fireman at the scene of a fire
- Driving while intoxicated
- Driving with an open container after drinking
- Reckless driving
- Driving over 80 mph, including in a work zone
- Speeding 15 miles or more over the speed limit while driving over 55 mph, including in a work zone
- Aggressive driving
- Failing to give right of way to the right when being passed if this results in a crash that causes bodily harm or property damage
- Making unsafe movements that cause an accident that results in serious bodily injury or property damage more than $5,000
- Failing to yield involving serious bodily injury
- Failing to stop at the scene of an accident or to report it
- Passing a stopped school bus
- Violating the financial responsibility laws
What Happens If You Miss Your Mandatory Court Hearing?
If you fail to attend your mandatory court hearing, you could face more serious consequences. You may be assessed additional court costs, a warrant could be issued for your arrest, and your driver’s license could be revoked. Depending on the traffic offense, you may be facing additional criminal charges. You should contact an attorney immediately for assistance in getting your hearing rescheduled so that you do not face these consequences.
We Are Here to Help With Your Traffic Offense
Did you receive a traffic ticket? Our experienced traffic law attorneys may be able to attend your mandatory court hearing for you and will fight hard to get the ticket dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. This can help you avoid some of the harsh long-term consequences, such as a permanent criminal record, points on your driving record, and increased insurance costs. Call our office today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.
What can happen if I get caught driving on a suspended license?
Because most people rely on driving a vehicle to get to work and take care of family and personal affairs, it can be devastating to have a suspended driver’s license. Public transportation may be readily accessible in some cities in North Carolina, but it may be unavailable, time-consuming, and expensive where you live. As a result, you may find it almost impossible not to drive—even if you have a suspended license. However, if you are caught, you could face even more serious penalties.
Why Are Driver’s Licenses Revoked in North Carolina?
Your North Carolina driver’s license can be suspended for many reasons. Some of the reasons are for fairly minor offenses while others are for committing serious offenses or unsafe driving practices. Here are some of the reasons that your driver’s license could be suspended:
- Failing to pay court costs and fees
- Failing to attend a required court hearing
- Failing to pay child support
- Failing to complete required community service
- Accumulating 12 Department of Motor Vehicle points on your driver’s license in a three-year period or accumulating three points in a three year period when you have a driver’s license suspension on your record
- Speeding over a certain speed or receiving a certain number of speeding tickets
- Refusing to submit to a chemical test to determine if you are intoxicated
- Being convicted of impaired driving
- Failing to stop after an accident
What Are the Penalties for Driving While Your Driver’s License Is Suspended?
Driving While License Revoked (DWLR) is a serious misdemeanor offense in North Carolina—even if your original suspension is for failing to pay fines or another more minor cause. However, the law was changed on December 1, 2015, to reduce the harsh consequences for some offenses. There are now four offenses:
- DWLR. You could be convicted of this offense if you drive a motor vehicle on a highway—which is broadly defined to include most roads—while knowing that your driver’s license has been revoked. This is a Class 3 misdemeanor, but under the new law, a violation may not result in an additional driver’s license suspension.
- Impaired driving suspension. It is a violation of the law to drive when your license has been suspended for impaired driving, and you have received a required notice under North Carolina law of the suspension. This is also a Class 1 Misdemeanor, and a violation could result in an additional driver’s license suspension.
- Driving without reclaiming license. If you are charged with DWI, your driver’s license will be immediately revoked. If the time period for the revocation has expired and you have not reclaimed your license, but are caught driving, this is a Class 3 misdemeanor. Under the new law, this violation may not result in an additional revocation of your license.
- Driving after notification. If you drive after failing to appear for a court hearing and this was communicated to the Department of Motor Vehicles or after receiving a notice from the DMV that your license has been suspended, this remains a Class 1 misdemeanor. You may face an additional driver’s license suspension.
The consequences of driving when your drivers’ license is suspended are serious and include a permanent criminal record if you are convicted of a misdemeanor offense. You could face these punishments:
- Up to 120 days in jail
- Fines to be set by the judge
- Driver’s license suspension of an additional one year for the first offense, two years for a second offense, and lifetime revocation for a third offense
- Eight points on your vehicle insurance policy, which can result in your premiums increasing up to 220 percent for the next three years under North Carolina’s Safe Driver Incentive Plan
Let Us Help If Your Driver’s License Has Been Suspended
If you have been charged with driving while your driver’s license was suspended, our experienced traffic law attorneys are here to help you fight the charges you face. Depending on your situation, we may be able to help you get your driving privileges restored. Call our office today to schedule your free case evaluation to learn more about your legal options.