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 a Mecklenburg County DWI defense attorney 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. A DWI defense attorney 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. Several of the following legal terms can be difficult to grasp, so it's always best to consult with a DWI defense attorney if you've been charged.
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:
Can my DWI be expunged in North Carolina?
If you are charged with even a first offense DWI in North Carolina, you face harsh penalties, such as a jail sentence, fines, and driver’s license suspension. You also face the long-term consequences of a permanent criminal record. Unfortunately, expungement of your DWI is only possible under limited circumstances in our state.
Does Your DWI Meet the Requirements for Expungement?
When an expungement is approved by a judge, the criminal record of the conviction is destroyed.
A new law passed in December 2017 makes it easier for some individuals to obtain an expungement of their criminal convictions for nonviolent misdemeanors and felonies.
The law reduced the waiting period for an expungement of a nonviolent misdemeanor from 15 to 5 years and a nonviolent felony from 15 to 10 years. It also eliminated the number of expungements a person would be entitled to when a criminal charge is dismissed or the person was found not guilty.
Unfortunately, DWI’s are excluded from the definition of nonviolent misdemeanors under this law and are ineligible to be expunged. You are only able to obtain an expungement of a DWI in very limited circumstances. This includes:
- Your DWI case was dismissed.
- You were found not guilty of DWI at a trial.
How to Get Your DWI Expunged If You Qualify
If your DWI was dismissed or you were found not guilty, your criminal case is not automatically expunged. You must file a petition in the county where your DWI case was being heard. You should retain an experienced DWI lawyer to file your petition to be certain that the proper procedures are followed and so that it is granted.
Because of the harsh penalties and long-term consequences you face if convicted of DWI in Charlotte, it is crucial to retain an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible after your arrest. He can help you mount a strong defense that can result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense that can be expunged—even if you are guilty. To learn how our dedicated legal team can help you, contact our office to schedule a free consultation today.
What is the penalty for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon?
Under North Carolina’s Felony Firearms Act, a felon is prohibited from possessing a firearm. If you violate this law, you could be charged with another felony crime that is punishable by a lengthy prison sentence.
What Is the Crime of Possession of a Firearm by a Felon?
The Felony Firearms Act makes it illegal for a person convicted of a felony to own, possess, or have in his custody, care, or control a firearm or any other weapon of mass death and destruction.
The Act spells out what is considered a firearm. It includes:
- Any weapon, including a starter gun, that can expel a projectile
- Firearm muffler or silencer
Antique firearms are not considered a firearm under the statute.
The law prohibits someone from possessing a firearm who has a felony conviction in North Carolina, another state, or under federal law. The prohibition is a lifetime ban. The only exception is if the felony conviction is for certain white-collar crimes, such as antitrust violations, unfair trade practices, or restraints of trade.
Construction and Actual Possession of a Firearm
A felon can be found in either constructive or actual possession of a firearm to be convicted of violating the Felony Firearms Act. A person would be in actual possession of a firearm if he has physical custody or possession of it.
Whether an individual is in construction possession of a firearm would depend on the facts surrounding his arrest. If he is aware of the firearm’s presence and has the ability to control its use or disposition, this may be sufficient to establish constructive possession of it. He is not required to have exclusive possession of the firearm.
What Are the Penalties for Possession of a Firearm as a Felon?
Possession of a firearm by a felon is a Class G felony. If convicted, it would be considered a second conviction under North Carolina’s sentencing guidelines because the underlying felony that resulted in the ban on possession of a firearm would be the first offense. You could be sentenced to 12 to 26 months in prison. Your punishment may be increased if you have other criminal convictions.
Can You Ever Have Your Right to Possess a Firearm Restored?
It may be possible to own a firearm again if your felony conviction is expunged. Under a new expungement law that went into effect in 2017, certain nonviolent misdemeanors and felonies may be expunged.
Have you been charged with possessing a firearm as a felon? Do you have questions about having a felony conviction expunged? Call our Charlotte office to schedule a free consultation with our experienced criminal defense attorneys today to learn how we can help you.
Why shouldn’t I just pay my traffic ticket?
If you received a traffic ticket, especially one that is a waivable offense that will not require a court hearing if you pay the fine, you may be tempted just to pay it. However, pleading guilty without first considering fighting the ticket may not be in your best interests because of the harsh penalties and long-term consequences of traffic violations in North Carolina.
Reasons to NOT Just Pay a Traffic Ticket in Charlotte
Traffic tickets are serious offenses in our state and often require a court appearance to resolve. Here are some reasons why fighting your traffic ticket may be a better option than just accepting your punishment.
Permanent Criminal Record
Some traffic offenses, such as speeding, hit and run accidents, and reckless driving are misdemeanor offenses in North Carolina. If convicted, you could have a permanent criminal record that would make it harder to obtain a job, find housing, and more.
Driver’s License Points
If convicted of a traffic offense, you may have points added to your driving record. For example, reckless driving or following too closely can add 4 points to your record, and speeding in excess of 55 miles per hour can add 3 points to it. If you accumulate 12 or more points on your driver’s license, the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can suspend your driver’s license for 60 days for a first suspension, six months for a second suspension, and 12 months for a third one.
In addition to having points added to your driver’s license, you will have insurance points added to your insurance record under the North Carolina Safe Driver Incentive Plan (SDIP) when you pay your ticket. This can dramatically increase your insurance cost. Here are examples of how this works:
- Speeding 10 miles or less over a speed limit of less than 55 mph and other moving violations: one insurance point and up to 30 percent increase in insurance premiums.
- Speeding 10 miles or less over the speed limit of 55 mph or higher or following too closely: two insurance points and up to 45 percent increase in insurance premiums.
- Reckless driving: Four insurance points and up to an 80 percent increase in insurance premiums.
- Hit and run accidents involving injury or death: 12 insurance points and up to 340 percent increase in insurance premiums.
Are you wondering whether it is better to pay your traffic ticket or fight it? Call our experienced Charlotte traffic ticket lawyers to schedule a free consultation to discuss your ticket and what option is best for your situation.
Can I appeal my DWI conviction?
If you have been arrested for DWI in Charlotte, your criminal case will initially be decided by a district court judge. You do not have a right to a jury trial. However, you have an automatic right to appeal to superior court if you are convicted of DWI.
How Long Do You Have to Appeal?
You have 10 days to file an appeal to superior court. If you fail to meet this deadline, your appeal would most likely be dismissed. In order to have the right to appeal, the following requirements must have been met:
- You must have plead not guilty to the DWI charges.
- You must not have entered into a plea agreement.
- Your case must have gone to trial in district court, and you must have been found guilty of DWI.
What Happens When You Appeal Your DWI Conviction to Superior Court?
If you file an appeal, your criminal case will start over in superior court. You are entitled to have your guilt decided in a jury trial, and you will be able to raise any defenses you have to your DWI arrest. Your conviction in district court should not be mentioned or used against in your new trial. However, if you are convicted of DWI in superior court, the judge could sentence you to a harsher punishment than in the district court proceeding.
Can You Appeal a Conviction for DWI in Superior Court?
It may be possible to appeal your conviction in superior court to the North Carolina Court of Appeals and then to our state’s Supreme Court. Your case would not be retried in these appeals. Instead, the appellate judges would decide if the Superior Court judges made an error of law.
Deciding on whether to file an appeal of your DWI conviction in Mecklenburg County is an important decision in your DWI case that can have long-term consequences on your life. Our experienced DWI lawyers can help you weigh the pros and cons of appealing and file your appeal if this is in your best interests. To learn how we have helped other clients facing DWI charges and how we can best assist you, call our Charlotte office to schedule your free consultation today.
How will insurance points affect my auto insurance rates?
In North Carolina, insurance points can dramatically affect the cost of your auto insurance. Even a simple ticket that only adds one insurance point to your record can result in a 30 percent increase in your insurance costs. Because of this, you should not just pay a citation fine without first obtaining the advice of an experienced traffic ticket attorney in Charlotte to determine if it is in your best interest to fight the ticket.
What Are Insurance Points?
There are two types of points that you can be assessed if you are found guilty of violating a traffic law: points on your driving record and insurance points. The North Carolina legislature created the Safe Driver Incentive Plan to encourage safe driving in our state. It rewards motorists who have a good driving record by allowing insurance companies to charge them less in insurance premiums. However, this law also allows insurance companies to charge significantly higher rates if a driver has insurance points due to traffic violations.
How Much Could Your Insurance Rates Increase Due to Insurance Points?
The North Carolina Department of Insurance sets the insurance points per accident and traffic citation and how much insurance rates can be increased when insurance points are assessed. An insurance company is allowed to consider how many points have interest over a three-year period when setting your premium cost. Here is how these points could affect this:
- One point. You can be assessed one point for moving violations that are not assessed higher points, for speeding 10 mph or less over the speed limit under 55 mph, or an accident causing personal injuries of $1,800 or less or property damage of $2,300 or less. Your insurance rates could increase as much as 30 percent.
- Two points. A citation for illegal passing, following too closely, accidents resulting in property damage between $2,300 and $3,850, and speeding 10 mph or less over the speed limit of 55 mph or higher are some of the violations that can result in two insurance points. This can cause your insurance rates to increase by 45 percent.
- Three points. Three points will be assessed if you cause a crash resulting in personal injuries of more than $1,800 or property damage totaling $3,850 or more. Insurance rates can go up by 60 percent.
- Four points. Reckless driving, a hit and run collision with only property damage, passing a stopped school bus, and speeding in excess of 75 mph where the posted speed limit is 70 mph or less can add four points to your insurance record. Your insurance company can increase your insurance premiums by 80 percent.
- Eight points. Aggressive driving and driving when your driver’s license is suspended or revoked can add eight insurance points to your record and increase your insurance costs by 195 percent.
- Ten points. Street racing and speeding to elude arrest are serious violations that can cause 10 points to be added to your record. Your insurance costs can also be increased by 260 percent.
- Twelve points. Manslaughter, negligent homicide, a hit and run accident resulting in bodily injury or death, and DUI are a few of the violations that can result in 12 points on your insurance record and a 340 percent increase in your insurance premiums.
If you or a loved one have been issued a traffic citation in Charlotte, take advantage of our offer of a free consultation to learn how we can help you to fight your traffic ticket and avoid the harsh consequences you face—including increased insurance costs. To schedule your appointment, call our office today.
What penalties could I face for driving too closely in North Carolina?
Getting a traffic ticket for driving too closely may not seem like too big of a deal. However, you could face long-term consequences as well be required to pay a fine and costs. Also, in some situations, tailgating can lead to more serious charges as well as a ticket citation.
What Is the Offense of Driving Too Closely?
North Carolina Code Section 20-152 makes it a traffic offense to follow other motor vehicles too closely. You could be ticketed for this offense if you do one of the following:
- You follow a vehicle more closely than is prudent and reasonable given the speed of other vehicles, traffic, and road conditions.
- When driving on a highway other than in a business or residential district, you follow another vehicle and do not allow enough space for an overtaking vehicle to enter and occupy the space in front of your auto without danger. However, this traffic rule does not prevent drivers from passing other vehicles.
What Are the Penalties for Tailgating?
You would be required to pay a $35 fine and costs if you plead guilty to or are convicted of driving too closely. In addition, you could face these long-term consequences:
- Two points on your driving record
- Increased auto insurance costs
- Driver’s license suspension if you have too many points on your driving record
Tailgating Can Result in More Serious Criminal Charges
In addition to being issued a ticket for driving too closely, you could also be charged with reckless driving or aggressive driving. Both are misdemeanor offenses that can result in a jail sentence, large fine, and a permanent criminal record.
If you injure or kill someone in a car accident because you are tailgating, you could be charged with a much more serious felony crime, such as:
- Felony assault
- Second-degree murder
Get the Legal Assistance You Need From an Experienced Charlotte Traffic Ticket Attorney
Tailgating is a waivable offense, which means that you can just plead guilty and pay the ticket. However, this may not be in your best long-term interests. Take advantage of our free consultation to learn about your options. Call our Charlotte office today to schedule a free consultation today.
What could happen to me if I am arrested for DWI with a minor child in my vehicle?
DWI is punished harshly in North Carolina and can have long-term consequences in your life. However, your sentence can be even more severe if you are arrested for DWI with a child present in your motor vehicle.
Enhanced Penalties You May Face for DWI With a Child Present in Your Vehicle
In 2011, “Laura’s Law” was signed into law. It was named after Laura Fortenberry, a 17-year-old teen killed in 2010 in an accident with a drunk driver who had been convicted of DWI three times in the past. Under this law, there are increased fines and penalties for subsequent DWI convictions and more severe penalties when a child is in the vehicle of a person arrested for driving while intoxicated.
Driving while intoxicated with a child present is considered a grossly aggravating factor that will automatically result in the second harshest level of punishment, which is a Level One punishment. Three types of passengers can result in these enhanced penalties:
- Child under 18 years old
- Individual with the mental capacity of a child under 18 years old
- Individual with a physical disability that would prevent him from leaving the vehicle at the time the driver was intoxicated
If convicted of DWI, a person can face these Level One punishments:
- A minimum jail sentence of 30 days up to a maximum of two years
- A fine of up to $4,000
- Driver’s license suspension of one year with no possibility of restricted driving privileges
What Should You Do If You Are Arrested for DWI With a Child Present?
If you have been charged with DWI and had a child under 18 years old present in your car, one of your first steps should be to retain an experienced DWI attorney in Charlotte immediately. A skilled lawyer can help you mount a strong defense—even if you are guilty—that can result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense with less severe penalties. To learn about our extensive experience in these cases and how we can assist you, call our Charlotte office to schedule your appointment today.