There are few driving experiences more frightening than being stopped or arrested for being suspected of drunk driving.
Under North Carolina DUI and DWI laws, officers can pull you over if they have reasonable suspicion that you are driving under the influence. What happens after they stop you? While every scenario is unique, we’ve outlined the basic stages leading up to and following a DWI arrest.
Stage 1: The Stop
After pulling you over, officers may ask you to show them your driver’s license and registration. He or she may also ask you to get out of your vehicle and perform a field sobriety test.
Stage 2: The Arrest
If the officer believes you are intoxicated, he or she may arrest you and escort you to a law enforcement facility for chemical testing. If you refuse to submit to a chemical test, your license may be suspended for one year.
Stage 3: The Chemical Test
Officials may test your breath, blood, or both for alcohol. If your test shows that you have a .08 blood alcohol content (BAC) or higher, your driver’s license may be immediately revoked for 30 days or more.
Stage 4: The Charge
If you are charged with a DWI, you may have to appear in court to defend your case. As in any criminal case, you have a right to a jury trial and a lawyer.
Stage 5: Depends on You. From this point on, the direction your DUI arrest takes depends largely on your actions. If you decide to hire a top North Carolina DUI defense attorney, you and your attorney can work together to build a powerful defense strategy.
Through thorough investigation and research, your attorney may be able to demonstrate that your blood test was invalid or administered improperly. Alternatively, your attorney may be able to demonstrate that the officer who conducted your initial traffic stop did not have probable cause to do so, thus rendering your test results and any other evidence gathered because of that stop invalid.
Your attorney can evaluate your case to determine your most effective defense, putting you in the best position possible to have your DWI charges reduced or dropped altogether.
If you do not hire an attorney, it will be much harder to defend your rights, and you may be convicted of a DUI or DWI. Once convicted, you may face the following penalties:
- Loss of your driving privileges for one year
- A fine of up to $4,000
- Up to 24 months of imprisonment
- Community service
- After you have served out your sentence, your legal BAC will be lowered to .04 for three years
- If your chemical test results read .15 or higher at the time of your arrest, you may also be required to install an ignition-interlock device in your vehicle. This is an expensive, intrusive device that tests your breath for alcohol before you can even turn on your vehicle.
The penalties for a DUI or DWI conviction in North Carolina become increasingly severe for repeat offenders. A conviction for your fourth DWI is a felony in North Carolina, and you may be penalized with up to 59 months in prison, staggering fines, and lifetime driver’s license suspension.
But perhaps the most life-altering consequence is the stain a DUI conviction may leave on your permanent record. With a DWI conviction on your record, you may find it difficult to find employment, as many employers do not want to deal with the higher insurance costs that come with having an employee with a DWI conviction on staff. You may also be rejected from colleges and universities, and even be denied entry to the military.
Ensuring the Best Possible Outcome for Your DWI Charge
you should take your DWI charge seriously, remember that a charge does not necessarily mean a conviction. There are many powerful defenses that can help you avoid the life-changing consequences of a DWI conviction. With the right lawyer, many drivers are able to have their DWI charges reduced or dropped.
If you have been arrested or charged with a DWI in North Carolina, contact a DWI defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can evaluate the unique circumstances of your case to determine your options and rights.
Pulling from experience, research, and resources, your attorney can help you build the strongest defense possible. He or she will work tirelessly to protect your rights, future, and freedom, helping you to obtain the best possible outcome for your DWI case and get you back behind the wheel.
About the Author
Attorney Mike Schlosser represents victims of personal injury, those charged with a crime, as well as those facing traffic charges. A former Guilford County, North Carolina District Attorney, Schlosser has been in private practice at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett since 1983 and has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 1973.