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Carteret County DWI & DUI Attorneys

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In the state of North Carolina, it is considered a criminal offense to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence – no matter whether this is in regards to alcohol or a controlled substance. Many people believe that to be criminally charged with driving while impaired (DWI), they must be proven to have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher. This, however, is untrue.

In fact, according to §20-138.1 of the 2009 North Carolina Code, to be criminally charged, all that must be proven is that you were driving while your ability was impaired. This "impairment" could be from a single beer or could even be the side effects of legal medication, such as cough medicine. The law actually specifically states that it is not considered a defense that the drugs or alcohol was legally consumed if it is determined that it impaired the defendant's driving ability.

Have you been arrested for driving while impaired in Carteret County?

The penalties that are associated with DWI's in the state of North Carolina will vary depending on a great variety of different aspects. Fines and imprisonment will be sentenced based on a level system – ranging from Level 1 to Level 5. For example, Level 5 imprisonment would be 24 hours to 60 days of incarceration, while a Level 1 would be 30 days to 2 years.

If you have been criminally charged for driving while impaired, it is highly encouraged that you consult with an experienced Carteret county criminal defense lawyer from our legal team at Cummings & Kennedy as soon as possible. We have exclusively focused on criminal defense cases – we know the nuances of these cases and are prepared to go the distance in providing our clients with hard-hitting and aggressive defense when it is needed most.

If you’re curious about DWI laws here in North Carolina, feel free to learn the answers to our frequently asked questions below, and continue reading for information on how legal representation may help you if you are facing prosecution for a DWI.

DWI Frequently Asked Questions

What constitutes a DWI?

In North Carolina, a DWI (or driving while impaired) charge can be issued if an officer suspects that you are operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs (including prescription drugs, so long as they impair your ability to drive).

What are the penalties for DWI convictions?

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) outlines the various severities of DWI that you can be charged with. Here’s their list of DWI convictions that a court can rule, starting with the least severe:

“Level V - Punishable by a fine up to $200 and a minimum jail sentence of 24 hours and a maximum of 60 days. A judge can suspend the sentence but upon completion that the driver spend 24 hours in jail, perform 24 hours of community service or not operate a vehicle for 30 days.

Level IV - Punishable by a fine up to $500 and a minimum jail sentence of 48 hours and a maximum of 120 days. A judge can suspend the sentence but upon completion that the driver spend 48 hours in jail, perform 48 hours of community service or not operate a vehicle for 60 days.

Level III - Punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and a minimum jail sentence of 72 hours and a maximum of six months. A judge can suspend the sentence only upon completion that the driver spend at least 72 hours in jail, perform 72 hours of community service or not operate a vehicle for 90 days.

Level II - Punishable by a fine up to $2,000 and a minimum jail sentence of seven days and a maximum of one year. A judge CANNOT suspend the minimum sentence.

Level I - Punishable by a fine up to $4,000 and a minimum jail sentence of 30 days and a maximum of two years. A judge CANNOT suspend the minimum sentence.”

The NCDPS also notes that Level I and II offenders are drivers who have been convicted of multiple DWIs, those who are transporting children, and those who may have injured someone while operating a vehicle. In addition to the aforementioned sentences, those convicted of a DWI will be subject to a substance abuse assessment program, and they may be required to attend a treatment program.

If you’ve been charged with a DWI, it may be in your best interest to hire an attorney to attempt to lessen the charges held against you. In some cases, the level of the charge may be reduced, or, you may be able to have the charge knocked down to a lesser charge (e.g. reckless driving), depending on the circumstances. You may even be able to have your charges dropped entirely, depending on the details of the arrest, and the specifics of your case.

How long does a DWI conviction remain on my record?

If you’re convicted of a DWI, it remains on your record for seven years. You can be convicted of “habitual” DWIs if you receive multiple DWIs in that time frame, and the sentencing will be more severe for multiple DWIs than the first infraction.

Can a DWI charge result in a felony?

Yes. Depending on the circumstances, a DWI conviction will either be a misdemeanor or a felony. In the state of North Carolina, if you’ve been convicted of multiple DWIs, a new conviction may be a felony. In most cases, an individual must have been convicted of three DWIs within seven years to be convicted of a felony DWI. Again, it may be in your best interest to hire an attorney if you’re facing a felony DWI charge.

Who can issue DWIs in North Carolina?

Only law enforcement officers can issue DWI charges. An officer may pull you over if they observe conduct that may be due to impairment (e.g. swerving, speeding, riding the line, other reckless behavior). The officer must then have probable cause to make an arrest. At this point, the officer may request that you perform a test (chemical or breathalyzer) to see if you have consumed an impairing substance.

Am I required to consent to a breathalyzer test?

If an officer requests that you take a breathalyzer test, you are required, by law, to take the breathalyzer. North Carolina law notes that alcohol screening falls under “implied consent” laws. As such, drivers are legally required to be screened when requested by an officer, and they may still be charged with a DWI violation if they refuse the test.

Do I have to be driving a vehicle to be charged with a DWI?

The lines are a bit grey here. In North Carolina, a “vehicle” under DWI law includes motorized vehicles that can be driven on state roads. Bicycles are also considered “vehicles” under North Carolina law, since they can be ridden on state roads. That said, the courts may or may not consider certain motorized vehicles to be vehicles (e.g. go karts), depending on the case at hand.

To be considered “driving” a vehicle, an individual must be behind the wheel and the engine has to be running (except in the case of bicyclists, of course). The vehicle does not have to be in motion for an officer to charge a driver with a DWI.

Can a minor or underaged drinker be charged with a DWI?

Yes. Underaged drinkers can be charged with a DWI, in addition to underage drinking charges. If you are facing an underage DWI, you will also be charged with a DWI, although you may only be convicted of one of those charges — whichever is more severe.

My vehicle was seized, is that legal?

Yes. Officers may seize your vehicle if your record shows that you have commited previous DWI infractions in the state. Your vehicle may be seized at the time of the arrest. For drivers who have had multiple DWI infractions, the state may seize your vehicle and you will forfeit ownership of the vehicle if you are convicted of a habitual DWI.

Can DWI charges and convictions be expunged?

Yes. If you’ve been charged with a DWI, or you’ve been convicted of a DWI, you may be able to expunge your record. As you may well know, a DWI charge can be very damaging for your record, and it can make it difficult to attain a job in the future. If you need to rid your record of a DWI charge, then you can pursue an expungement.

If you were charged of a DWI, but were not convicted of the DWI, then you can petition to have your record expunged of the charge. There are a number of requirements for an individual for the court to allow an expungement. First of all, the individual may not have had an expungement before. Also, the individual cannot have been convicted of a felony here in North Carolina. An individual must petition the court and pay a fee to complete the expungement process.

If you were convicted of a DWI, expungement is far more difficult. An individual must fulfill all of the following criteria to be eligible for an expungement: The conviction and all punishments (including probation) must have occurred and been completed at least 15 years ago. The individual cannot have been convicted of any other misdemeanor or felony (excluding traffic violations). The individual must petition the court and pay a fee for expungement.

Are DWI laws different for commercial drivers?

Yes. Commercial drivers are subject to stricter laws, and different punitive measures. The NCDPS notes that “it's unlawful for the operator of a commercial motor vehicle to drink and drive. The first offense results in a 10 day disqualification to operate a commercial motor vehicle. The second or subsequent offense revokes the driver's license to operate any vehicle. [There is] zero tolerance for school bus and school activity bus drivers and child care vehicle drivers drivers. It is unlawful for school bus and school activity bus drivers and child care vehicle operators (day care van etc.) to drink and drive.”

The Benefits of Attorney Representation for DWIs

If you’re facing a DWI, you’re facing a serious criminal charge that can result in a conviction which may stay on your record indefinitely. It’s often best to hire an attorney to gain protection from prosecution. As DWI attorneys, we may be able to help you lessen your charges, decrease your sentencing, or have your charges dropped altogether. An attorney may provide you with all of the following benefits:

Knowledge of local laws: If you’ve been charged with a DWI here in Carteret County, then it may be helpful to hire an attorney who understands local and state laws. Here at Cummings & Kennedy, we’ve defended those who have been charged with DWIs throughout Carteret County, and our experience means that we have a unique insight and understanding about the laws that affect drivers on North Carolina roads — that can be a major asset to those who are facing upcoming prosecution for a DWI.

An understanding of court proceedings: As court dates and deadlines approach, you may be confused about what you have to do, and when. We understand how the local court works, and we’ll ensure that you understand the coming schedule of your court proceedings. We’ll also help you to fill out and file any necessary paperwork as you navigate the court process.

Protecting your rights: It’s our aim to serve your best interests. We’ll do our utmost to earn a positive outcome for you as you defend against your DWI charge. We strive to have your charges reduced or dropped, and we aim to protect you from unfair prosecution.

Active members of the law community: We actively work with local police, judges, and other figures that are present in the courtroom. As such, we have a rapport with community members, and knowledge of how our local court usually operates. That can serve as an useful tool when we’re navigating through court proceedings and interacting with other members of the law community.

While you can defend yourself in your upcoming DWI trial, it may be in your best interest to hire an attorney. You could save money, save yourself from jail time, and save your record. If you’re curious about what we can do for you, don’t hesitate to reach out to us to get started with a consultation. Find out what we can do for you.


Want to know more about how we can help? Contact a Carteret County DWI attorney from Cummings & Kennedy, your criminal defense firm.