Answers to Your North Carolina DWI Questions
It’s natural to have many questions and concerns when you are arrested for drunk driving. What exactly does this charge mean for you and your family? What kind of legal options exist? How can you minimize the negative consequences? These questions and more are answered by the experienced attorneys at Browning & Long, PLLC. Using their years of practice and knowledge of the law, they share their thoughts to many of your most common concerns.
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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 I be charged with DWI if my BAC was less than 0.08 percent?
Many North Carolina residents are under the misconception that they cannot be charged with DWI if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is less than 0.08 percent. However, this is not true in our state.
In addition, you could face the same harsh punishments if you are convicted of DWI when your BAC is less than 0.08 percent as you would face if it is over this amount. However, you may have strong defenses that you can use to fight the charges so that they are dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense in a plea agreement with the prosecutor.
When Can You Be Charged With DWI If Your BAC Was Less Than 0.08 Percent?
Under N.C.G.S. 20-138.1, it is against the law to drive a motor vehicle on a street, highway, or other public place while you are intoxicated. One way to violate this law is to drive with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher. However, a person can also be charged with DWI when their BAC is less than 0.08 percent in the following situations:
- Impairment. An individual can be arrested for DWI if they are driving under the influence of an impairing substance.
- Controlled substance. DWI can be charged when there is any amount of a controlled substance, such as marijuana, cocaine, or heroin, in their system.
- Commercial drivers. Commercial drivers are held to a higher standard in North Carolina. They can be arrested for DWI if their blood alcohol content is 0.04 percent or higher.
- Drivers under 21 years old. North Carolina has a zero-tolerance law for drivers who are under 21 years old. They could be convicted of DWI if they test positive for any amount of alcohol in their system.
When Can You Be Charged With Driving Under the Influence of an Impairing Substance?
If an individual’s BAC is less than 0.08 percent, the police may try to charge them with DWI for driving under the influence of an impairing substance. In order to be convicted, the prosecutor would need to prove that their physical and mental capacities were appreciably impaired because of the consumption of alcohol or other substances, such as methamphetamine, cocaine, or marijuana.
Proving a DWI case based on appreciable impairment will be heavily based on the testimony of the police officer who made the arrest. Here are ways that they may try to prove this:
- Driving. One way to establish impairment is to show that the individual was driving unsafely. Speeding, weaving between lanes, crossing the center line, and driving too slowly may be evidence used by law enforcement officials.
- Signs of intoxication. The officer could testify that they observed signs that the driver was intoxicated when they were pulled over. Signs of drunk or drugged driving include slurred speech, an odor of alcohol on the person’s breath, red or watery eyes, confusion, stumbling, or falling down.
- Field sobriety test. If the individual agreed to take field sobriety tests, the officer could testify as to how they failed the tests to show that they were significantly impaired when driving.
Penalties for DWI When Your BAC Is Less Than 0.08 Percent
North Carolina uses a complicated sentencing system that takes into consideration a number of mitigating and aggravating factors, such as reckless driving, speeding at least 30 miles over the posted speed limit, and driving with a revoked license. This means that you can face a wide range of punishments when you are sentenced if you are convicted of DWI—even if your BAC is less than 0.08 percent. Here are a few of the punishments you could face:
- Aggravated level one. If there are three or more grossly aggravating factors, you could be sentenced to a jail sentence of 12 to 36 months, a fine of up to $10,000, and probation after serving 120 days in jail.
- Level one. If there are two grossly aggravating factors, you may have to serve 30 days to 24 months in jail and pay a fine not to exceed $4,000.
- Level five. Level five is the least harsh level of punishment you could face. If your mitigating factors, such as having a clean driving record or a BAC of 0.09 percent or less, outweigh any grossly aggravating ones, you could be sentenced to 24 hours to 60 days in jail and a fine of $200.
If you were charged with DWI in Mecklenburg County, you need a skilled DWI attorney who will aggressively defend you. To learn how we can help you, call our Charlotte office to schedule your free, initial consultation.
Could a DWI conviction affect my ability to get into college?
You could face harsh penalties if you are convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in North Carolina, which can include up to 36 months in jail and a maximum fine of $10,000 for the most serious level of punishment. In addition, there are many other long-term consequences of a conviction. One ramification is that it may affect your ability to get admitted into college and other aspects of your college life.
What Is DWI in North Carolina?
It is illegal to drive a motor vehicle on a street, highway, or public place while intoxicated in our state. Under N.C.G.S. 20-138.1, an individual can be arrested for DWI for the following:
- They were driving under the influence of an impairing substance.
- They were driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher.
- They were driving while there was any amount of a controlled substance, such as marijuana, cocaine, or heroin in their system.
- If they are a commercial driver, they were driving with a BAC of 0.04 or higher.
- If they are under 21 years old, North Carolina’s no-tolerance law would apply, and they could be convicted of DWI if there was any amount of alcohol in their system.
How a DWI Conviction Could Affect College Admissions
Being convicted of DWI can have an effect on a person’s ability to be accepted for admission by a college. This can be of special concern to seniors in high school and other young adults who are more likely to attend an institute of higher learning. However, individuals seeking admission into a master’s program, medical, nursing, or law school, and older adults trying to obtain a college degree can also have their plan impacted.
It is very likely that the college application will ask if the applicant was ever convicted of a crime. DWI is a misdemeanor offense in North Carolina and would need to be disclosed.
The policies of the university or college and the severity of the DWI charges will affect how the conviction could affect the decision of whether to approve an application. The college could make one of these decisions:
- Deny the application. If the college has a strict policy against any convictions for DWI, they could deny an individual’s application. However, most do not have such a firm rule, especially if this is the first conviction for drinking when driving.
- Consider the conviction. The most common effect of a DWI conviction is that the college admissions department would consider it when deciding whether to accept or reject the application. If a student is applying to a university that gets many more applications than spots available for the upcoming year, it is more likely that the conviction will negatively affect their ability to be admitted.
- Ignore the DWI. Some colleges may have a policy of not considering a past DWI when deciding whether to accept a student.
Will You Be Expelled If You Are Arrested for DWI While in College?
It is unlikely that you would be expelled from college if you are convicted of DWI and it is your first offense. If you have prior DWI arrests, other convictions or were found guilty of a felony DWI crime, expulsion may be more likely.
However, you may be placed on probation, depending on the school’s policies. You could face expulsion if you are convicted of another DWI or other crime, violate the college’s rules and policies, or do not maintain a certain grade point average.
Can a DWI Conviction Have an Impact on Financial Aid?
Being found guilty of DWI could impact your ability to obtain a scholarship or financial aid. If you are already enrolled in college, you may have a duty to report your conviction and could lose your scholarship and financial aid. In addition, you may have to move if you live in campus housing.
Contact a DWI Attorney in Charlotte
Were you arrested for DWI in Mecklenburg County? You may have strong defenses that could result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious outcome—even if you are guilty of DWI.
If you want to fight the charges you face and achieve the best possible outcome given your situation, you need the help of an experienced DWI lawyer. To learn about our track record of success in defending clients like you and how we can assist you, call our Charlotte office to schedule your free consultation today.
Can I be charged with DWI if I was intoxicated while I was a supervising driver for a teen driver?
Technically, you cannot be charged with DWI if you are intoxicated and supervising a young driver. However, you could be arrested for impaired supervision, which is very similar to a DWI offense and carries similar penalties under North Carolina law.
What Is Impaired Supervision?
N.C.G.S. 20-12.1 makes it against the law for an individual to serve as a supervising driver or instructor while intoxicated. The offense of impaired supervision can be committed by acting as a supervising driver for a teen driver under one of the following circumstances:
- Being under the influence of an impairing substance
- Having consumed enough alcohol that the individual’s blood alcohol content is 0.08 percent or higher
Who Is Permitted to Be a Supervising Driver?
Before a teen obtains a driver’s license, they must be issued a learner’s permit and are only permitted to operate a vehicle while a supervising driver is in the vehicle beside them. In order to be considered a supervising driver, the person must be a parent, grandparent, or guardian of the young driver or a responsible person who is approved to act as a supervising driver by the teen’s parent or guardian.
What Are the Penalties for Impaired Supervision?
Impaired supervision is an implied consent offense and is charged as a Class 2 misdemeanor. If convicted, a person can be sentenced to up to 60 days in jail, a fine, and court costs. In addition, their driver’s license would be immediately suspended at the time of their arrest as it would be if they were the intoxicated driver and arrested for DWI.
Were you charged with DWI or impaired supervision in Mecklenburg County? Call our Charlotte office to schedule a free consultation with our experienced DWI lawyers to learn how we can help you mount an aggressive defense strategy that could result in the charges against you being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.
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.
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.
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.
Do I have to tell my employer about my DWI arrest?
You face a number of harsh penalties and long-term consequences if convicted of DWI in Charlotte. A possible jail sentence, fines, suspension of your driver’s license, and a permanent criminal record are a few. Another immediate worry that you may have is whether or not you have to disclose your DWI arrest to your employer and how this could affect your job.
Are You Required to Report a DWI Arrest to Your Employer?
Fortunately, it is not a requirement of most jobs that employees disclose a DWI arrest. However, there are a few situations when disclosing this information is required:
- Employee contract or handbook. Some employers have a provision in an employee contract or handbook requiring employees to disclose certain criminal offenses. It is important to read the applicable contract or handbook sections to determine what offenses must be disclosed and whether the requirement is to tell the employer about an arrest or a conviction.
- Certain jobs. Truck drivers, postal workers, air traffic controllers, and other employees who drive for their job may have a duty to disclose a DWI arrest to their supervisor for insurance purposes. In addition, individuals in the military must report a DWI to their chain of command.
- Security clearance. Some security clearances require employees to report a DWI arrest. It is important to review the security clearance paperwork to determine if this is a condition of the security clearance.
- Company car. Employers often require employees who drive a company vehicle to disclose DWI arrests because of insurance issues.
- Professional license. Individuals who have a professional license, such as a doctor, lawyer, nurse, dentist, pharmacist, and real estate agent, may have to report an arrest for DWI to their licensing board. However, some licensing boards only require this when a license is issued or renewed.
Should You Disclose a DWI If You Do Not Have to?
It will depend on your individual circumstances on whether you want to voluntarily discuss your arrest with your supervisor or boss. If your company does periodic background checks on employees where this information would be discovered, you may want to be honest and tell your employer. This can allow you to discuss the circumstances of your arrest in the best possible light.
Have you been arrested for DWI in Charlotte? Our experienced DWI attorneys can help you build a strong defense to the charges you face and determine whether you must report your arrest or conviction to your employer. Call our office to schedule a free consultation today.