It’s just about time to close the books on 2016, and for many this weird, wild, surprising year probably can’t end soon enough. While you’re blowing off steam this New Year’s Eve, though, make sure that it does not start with a suspended license or DWI charge.
New Year’s Eve is one of the most notorious weekend holidays for drinking and driving. America consistently sees a spike in the number of fatal traffic accidents around the New Year’s holiday, and year after year, driving under the influence causes almost half of all traffic fatalities.
Law enforcement is aware of the high numbers of drunk drivers, and often spends their New Year’s holiday trying to prevent as many accidents as possible through traffic stops and sobriety checkpoints. During these stops, officers may ask you to complete field sobriety tests, or take a chemical test (for roadside stops, you will be asked to take a breathalyzer).
Drivers who are caught with a .08 blood alcohol content (or .04 for commercial drivers and drivers who have past driving while impaired convictions) may be arrested and charged with driving while impaired (DWI).
This can cause your license to be suspended for up to a year, but that’s just one of the penalties.
The Penalties of DWI in North Carolina
Getting convicted of DWI in North Carolina has many consequences beyond the typical penalties of jail time and fines. There are five levels of DWI charges in our state, so penalties have quite a wide range.
DWI consequences (for a first conviction) include:
- Between 24 hours and 36 months in jail
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- Substance abuse assessment
- Community service hours
- Installing an ignition interlock device (IID) for a period of time
- Monitored abstaining from alcohol
- License suspension for up to a year
The conviction will also be placed on your criminal record. Having this blemish will send your insurance premiums through the roof. That’s not just lip service, either –North Carolina has some of the most dramatic increases in insurance premiums of any state. You may see your cost of insurance rise by over 368%, even if it is your first offense.
Still, for many the worst part is not being able to drive.
Other Ways Your License Could Get Suspended
If you are charged with DWI on New Year’s Eve, you could spend a good amount of 2017 without the ability to drive. But you may also face this consequence for a few other reckless driving convictions.
License suspensions are a common consequence for traffic violations and other related crimes, including:
- Refusing to take a chemical test at a DWI stop
- Speeding 15mph over the speed limit in a 55+ zone
- Accumulating 12 points on your license in less than 3 years
- Accumulating 8 points on your license in less than 3 years after your license is reinstated
- Violating the rules of your IID
No matter how long your license is suspended, it is crucial to follow the rules of your suspension and stay out of the driver’s seat. If a police officer pulls you over and you have a suspended license, you could face additional consequences and even more time without a license.
Worse, after three convictions of driving with a suspended license, your driving privileges are permanently revoked.
Additionally, even if you are on your first license suspension, reinstating your license can rack up hundreds of dollars in fees and can take extra time if you are not able to get to the DMW once you qualify for reinstatement.
If You Are Charged and Face License Suspension, You Have Options
No one wants their license suspended. It limits your ability to drive, get to work, run errands, and could cost a fortune in rideshares and public transportation fees (in addition to any increase in insurance premiums you may face). So whether you are charged with driving under the influence or you’re beginning to rack up points on your license, it’s important to fight back against the charges against you.
There are ways to defend against these charges, or mitigate your sentence to allow you to still drive during restricted occasions while your license is suspended. Ask your lawyer or local DMV office about getting Limited Driving Privileges.
You may need to attend a hearing or negotiate a charge. Before you begin to fight the charges against you, contact a North Carolina defense lawyer who specializes in license revocation and traffic violations. There are many different ways to settle through plea bargaining or even to get your charges dropped altogether. An experienced revocation attorney can lead you through these options and help you figure out the best path for you.
About the Author:
Jan Elliott Pritchett is Managing Partner at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett and one of North Carolina’s top rated criminal defense attorneys. With a practice dedicated 100% to litigation, Mr. Pritchett protects the legal rights of clients who have been charged in federal and state criminal matters, as well as DUI/DWi, motor vehicle accidents, personal injury, and traffic violations. In practice since 1995, Mr. Pritchett has earned a reputation as a highly talented and fearless lawyer, being listed among the state’s “Legal Elite” and recognized as one of the Top 100 DWI Lawyers in North Carolina by the National Advocacy of DUI Defense. He currently serves as the Co-Chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Legal Specialization, Criminal Law Specialty, and Vice-Chairman of the North Carolina Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section.