Greensboro DWI Lawyer

Greensboro DWI Defense Attorney

It can be extremely stressful to face a charge for driving while impaired (DWI). It could also be potentially life-altering, resulting in short-term and long-term consequences to your finances and opportunities in the future. You should never face these charges alone. If you have been arrested for drunk or impaired driving, you need to find a skilled Greensboro DWI lawyer to aid in your defense.

Even for a first-time offense, a DWI can result in jail time, fines, probation, community service, and required classes. It also creates a criminal record, which has much further-reaching consequences. You need an effective defense to limit the severity of penalties, argue for a lighter sentence, or even avoid conviction entirely. A strong and compassionate attorney is necessary to build a defense against a DWI charge.

Dedicated Defense With LAWSMITH, The Law Offices of J. Scott Smith, PLLC

You don’t have to face the criminal justice system alone. At The Law Offices of J. Scott Smith, PLLC, we help you through these difficult proceedings. Our firm understands the immense stakes of a DWI charge and the ramifications of a conviction. We take the steps to help limit the impact of a DWI and help you understand each part of the process.

Our attorneys have several years of experience in criminal defense and other areas of law, and we understand the intricacies of DWI and DWI defense. Our firm believes in every person’s right to a fair trial, and we dedicate our skill and time to providing each of our clients with an effective legal defense. At LAWSMITH, The Law Offices of J. Scott Smith, PLLC, we fight for you and your interests.

What Are the Basics of a DWI?

In North Carolina, a DWI is the crime of driving impaired. DUI and DWI refer to the same crime in the state, but DWI is the term typically used. Driving impaired means one of the following:

  1. Being under the influence of an impairing substance
  2. Having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher based on a chemical analysis
  3. Having any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance present in a chemical test

Being impaired in any of these ways while operating a vehicle on a public street or area is illegal. Because the law states that it is illegal to be influenced by an impairing substance, a driver does not have to have a BAC of .08% to be arrested and charged with a DWI. If the driver’s vehicle operation appears impaired, this could be sufficient. Any drugs that impair a driver, including prescription drugs, could result in a DWI charge.

There are exceptions to the .08% limit. Commercially licensed drivers have a BAC limit of .04%. Drivers under the age of 21 cannot drive while drinking or while there is any remaining controlled substance or alcohol in their body. This means that any percentage of a controlled substance can result in a DWI.

Field Sobriety Tests and Chemical Testing

A DWI can be charged for driving impaired, even without meeting the legal limit. Impairment is largely determined by the officer who pulls over or arrests a driver based on observations, field tests, and other information. This can, unfortunately, be very subjective, and it could result in inaccurate or false statements about impairment.

If you are pulled over, and the law enforcement officer has reason to believe you are impaired, they may ask you to complete field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests may determine coordination, balance, attention span, and cognitive ability. Officers may also administer a preliminary breathalyzer test.

The results of these tests (if positive) are often used as evidence in a DWI case, but they can be inaccurate. Many factors can influence the results in field sobriety tests, which can make a driver appear more impaired than they are. These roadside breath tests can be legally refused without any legal penalty. Preliminary breathalyzers can also be inaccurate.

However, some tests cannot be refused without legal penalty. North Carolina has implied consent laws, which means that drivers on the road in North Carolina consent to a mandatory breath test or other chemical analysis. Refusing these tests can result in administrative penalties, including license revocation for a year or longer. You can refuse the test and still be compelled to take it under other laws.

Levels of DWI Sentencing in Greensboro

Every DWI arrest and charge is unique, and many factors influence how a DWI is charged and sentenced. These include the number of prior DWIs, the age and occupation of the person driving under the influence, how severely they were intoxicated, and other factors. These are the varying levels of DWI charges in North Carolina:

  • Level V

A level V DWI conviction results in a fine of up to $200 and between 24 hours and 60 days in jail. This jail sentence can be suspended for probation as long as the offender spends 24 hours of their sentence in jail, or performs 24 hours of community service.

  • Level IV

A level IV DWI results in penalties including up to $500 in fines and between 48 hours and 120 days in jail. The jail sentence can be suspended if 48 hours are served, or if 48 hours of community service are completed.

  • Level III

A level III DWI conviction will result in up to $1,000 in fines and between 72 hours and six months in jail. This sentence can be suspended if the offender completes 72 hours of the sentence, or if 72 hours of community service are completed.

  • Level II

A level II DWI charge is punishable by up to $2,000 in fines and between seven days to one year in jail. This sentence cannot be suspended except when a condition of special probation is imposed. In this case, the offender would need to spend seven days in jail at minimum, seven days at an approved substance abuse inpatient treatment facility or not consume alcohol for 90 days or more, which would be authenticated by an alcohol monitoring system.

  • Level I

Penalties for a level I DWI include up to $4,000 in fines and between 30 days and two years in jail. The minimum sentence of 30 days cannot be suspended unless the offender is required not to consume alcohol and submit to an alcohol monitoring system for at least 120 days as a condition of special probation or spend a minimum of 30 days at an approved, substance abuse inpatient treatment facility In this case, the jail sentence must be at least 10 days.

  • Aggravated Level I

An aggravated level I DWI charge results in fines of up to $10,000 and imprisonment for between 12 months and 36 months. If part of the sentence is suspended for probation, the offender must serve a minimum of 120 days in jail or spend a minimum of 120 days at an approved, substance abuse inpatient treatment facility. Probation may include the use of an alcohol monitoring system, a substance abuse assessment, substance abuse treatment, and other terms of probation.

  • Habitual DWI

Habitual impaired driving is charged when an individual has been convicted of three or more DWI offenses in the ten years before the date of this offense. This is punished as a Class F felony with a mandatory minimum sentence of 12 months. This cannot be suspended.

Conviction of this offense will also result in the permanent revocation of the offender’s license. It will also result in the forfeiture of the vehicle used in the offense unless the vehicle is the property of an innocent party who did not know and could not have known about the person’s prior offenses or who did not give consent for the offender to drive the vehicle.

Determining Penalties in a DWI Offense

The levels and associated penalties for a DWI charge are assigned based on the unique factors present in a DWI case. Typically, those with level AI, I, or II sentences are those with one or multiple prior DWI convictions or those who had other grossly aggravating factors present in their arrest. When determining the sentencing level of an individual, the criminal court will review the following:

  1. Grossly aggravating factors
  2. Aggravating factors
  3. Mitigating factors

Based on the severity and number of these factors, the court determines the sentence level.

Grossly Aggravating Factors in a DWI Case

The judge or jury will first review the case to determine if there are any grossly aggravating factors present. These factors include:

  1. A prior DWI conviction within the last seven years prior to the date of the current offense
  2. A prior DWI conviction occurring after the date of the current offense but sentenced before or during the current offense
  3. A prior DWI conviction took place in a district court, was appealed to a superior court, and was returned or withdrawn to the district court. However, a new sentence has not yet occurred.
  4. The driver was driving impaired on a revoked license, which was revoked due to a DWI conviction.
  5. Their impaired operation of the vehicle caused serious injury to another person.
  6. The driver had another person in the vehicle who:
    1. a. Was under the age of 18;
    2. b. Had the mental development of someone under the age of 18; or
    3. c. Had a physical disability preventing them from leaving the vehicle without aid

When grossly aggravating factors are present in the case, the penalties are likely to be more severe. If three or more separate grossly aggravating factors are present in a case, it must be penalized as an aggravated level I DWI sentence. If there were two grossly aggravating factors present, level I penalties should be sentenced. Level I penalties should also be sentenced if a minor or other listed vulnerable person was present in the vehicle.

Aggravating Factors in a DWI Case

Aggravating factors are weighed prior to sentencing and are considered based on their severity in each unique case. The judge or jury will determine if any of the following apply to a DWI case:

  1. The driver was grossly impaired with a BAC of .15% or higher in a relevant period of time after driving a vehicle.
  2. Extremely reckless or dangerous vehicle operation
  3. Negligence led to an accident that was considered reportable, meaning it caused property damage, injury, or death.
  4. The driver was operating the vehicle while their license was revoked.
  5. The driver has two or more prior driving offense convictions that are not DWIs, but that may result in at least three points on a license. These offenses may also have resulted in the revocation of their driver’s license. However, these convictions must have occurred within the prior five years. The driver could also have one or more prior convictions of an impaired driving offense occurring more than seven years prior to the current offense.
  6. Conviction of speeding while leaving the scene or attempting to avoid being apprehended.
  7. Conviction of speeding by at least 30 miles per hour over the posted speed limit
  8. The driver illegally passed a stopped school bus.
  9. Any other aggravating factor present.

Excluding the prior driving or DWI conviction offenses in factor five, these aggravating factors must have occurred during the same instance as the current DWI charge.

Mitigating Factors in a DWI Case

Mitigating factors may lessen the severity of a final sentence. The judge on the case should consider the significance of the factors in each unique case. Some mitigating factors include:

  1. Slight impairment solely from alcohol with a BAC equal to or less than .09%
  2. The driver was driving safely beyond being impaired.
  3. A safe driving record prior to this offense
  4. Impairment was due to a prescribed drug taken with a reasonable dosage for an existing condition.
  5. Any other relevant mitigating factors

The ratio of mitigating factors to aggravating factors can determine the sentence.

Do I Need a Greensboro DWI Attorney?

You have the right to legal representation when you are charged with a crime, and it is essential that you use that right. Without a talented attorney, you are more likely to face the most significant penalties available in your case. You may be unaware of breaches of your rights when you were pulled over or arrested, as well as the viable defenses these breaches present. There are several steps you may miss without an attorney, including defending your license before your trial to avoid suspension.

When you approach a DWI case with a skilled attorney, you are more likely to achieve the most positive outcome possible in your case. This may include a reduction of charges, lower penalties, a dismissal of evidence, and even the complete dismissal of the case in some situations. Your attorney can guide you through the process of a criminal case, build your defense, and protect your rights. A DWI attorney is crucial to the ideal outcome of your case.

FAQs:

Q: How Much Does a DWI Lawyer Cost in North Carolina?

A: A DWI lawyer in North Carolina may vary significantly in cost, depending on many factors. Some DWI lawyers charge on an hourly basis, while others charge a flat fee. This may depend on how complicated your DWI case is and how much time the attorney expects it will take. The cost of a DWI attorney may increase if your case is complex, has many aggravating factors, or is expected to go to court. A more skilled or experienced attorney may also charge a higher rate.

Q: Is a DWI a Felony in North Carolina?

A: No, not unless it is a habitual DWI.

Q: How Do DWI s and DWIs Differ in North Carolina?

A: In North Carolina, DWI (driving under the influence) and DWI (driving while intoxicated) are essentially the same offenses. Both can be used to refer to operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances, or other drugs. North Carolina typically uses the term DWI for all offenses. Although both terms used to be separate charges in North Carolina, this is no longer the case. Some other states use DUI and DWI to refer to different charges.

Q: How Do You Beat a DWI in North Carolina?

A: The most effective way to beat a DWI in North Carolina is to work with a skilled DWI defense attorney, who can review your circumstances and determine the ideal defense for you. Exercise your right to remain silent if you are arrested for a DWI, as well as your right to receive legal counsel.

Whether you were under the influence or not, do not try to explain yourself without speaking to a lawyer. Your attorney can build a defense and determine if your rights were respected and if evidence was correctly obtained.

Find a Greensboro DWI Attorney

It’s important to find an attorney sooner rather than later. If you wait too long, an attorney may be unable to gather crucial information for your defense in time, and you may miss the administrative hearing to reinstate your license. Finding the right attorney in Greensboro is necessary to aid your DWI case.

At LAWSMITH, The Law Offices of J. Scott Smith, PLLC, we provide you with dedicated, caring, and respectful legal care. We have helped many of our clients through this process, and our attorneys believe in fighting for your rights. Contact our firm today.

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