DWI Charges & Criminal Defense FAQ

Facing charges of driving while impaired (DWI) can be daunting, and it’s often hard to find straightforward answers. That’s why Greenwood Law has compiled these clear, no-nonsense FAQs to guide you through the basics of North Carolina’s DWI laws and how a DWI conviction could affect your future.

How Much Does a Criminal Lawyer Cost in North Carolina?

The cost of hiring a criminal lawyer in North Carolina can vary significantly based on several factors. These include the complexity of your case, the lawyer’s level of experience, and the amount of work and time they will need to invest to provide a robust defense. The total cost could increase if your case goes to trial or requires extensive pre-trial motions and preparation.

Before deciding on a lawyer, it’s essential to have a clear discussion about their fee structure and financing options, understand all potential costs, and agree on how you will handle any unforeseen expenses. Remember, investing in a competent and experienced lawyer can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case, potentially saving you from harsh penalties or even clearing your name.

What Are Sentences and Penalties for a First DWI in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, penalties for first-time DWI offenses vary depending on the severity of the offense, which will be categorized into one of five levels. Level V is the least severe, and Level I is the most severe. Here’s a breakdown of the possible penalties for each level:

  • Level V DWI: The court may impose a fine of up to $200 and a jail sentence ranging from a minimum of 24 hours to a maximum of 60 days. However, the judge has the discretion to suspend the jail sentence on the condition that the driver either spends 24 hours in jail, performs 24 hours of community service, or refrains from operating a vehicle for 30 days.
  • Level IV DWI: This level carries a potential fine of up to $500 and a jail sentence of between 48 hours and 120 days. The judge can suspend the jail sentence if the driver completes 48 hours in jail, performs 48 hours of community service, or does not drive for 60 days.
  • Level III DWI: Offenders face up to $1,000 in fines and a jail sentence ranging from 72 hours to six months. The judge can suspend the sentence if the driver spends at least 72 hours in jail, completes 72 hours of community service, or abstains from driving for 90 days.
  • Level II DWI: This level is punishable by up to $2,000 in fines and seven days to one year in jail. Unlike the previous levels, the judge cannot suspend the minimum jail sentence for Level II DWI.
  • Level I DWI: The most severe level for first-time offenders, Level I DWI can result in fines up to $4,000 and a jail sentence of 30 days to two years. There is no possibility for the judge to suspend the minimum jail sentence for Level I offenses.

Aggravating factors such as a high BAC (.15 percent or more), reckless driving, or causing a collision can influence the severity of the punishment. Mitigating factors like a low BAC (.09 percent or less), prescribed medication, or safe driving can lead to lesser penalties. Judges weigh these factors during sentencing.

All DWI convictions require you to complete a substance abuse assessment and complete any recommended treatments for driver’s license restoration. The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will revoke the driver’s license of anyone convicted of a DWI.

First-time offenders face a license revocation period of one year and must install an ignition interlock device (IID) for the same duration. Early license reinstatement is possible with alcohol monitoring. Additionally, first-time offenders can qualify for limited driving privileges during revocation periods, allowing them to drive to work, school, and religious services under certain conditions.

How Much Does It Cost to Go to Court for a DWI in North Carolina?

Possible DWI-related expenses include court fees, fines, and potentially the cost of any court-ordered educational programs, treatment for substance abuse, or probation monitoring. Fines for a DWI can range from as low as $200 to as high as $4,000, depending on the circumstances.

Additional financial implications could include the cost of license reinstatement, surging auto insurance premiums, and the installation of an IID. When combined with legal fees and the potential loss of income during this period, the total cost associated with a DWI charge can easily surpass $10,000. This is why it’s so important to seek experienced legal counsel to protect your rights and minimize the financial implications of DWI charges in North Carolina.

How Do I Get My DWI Dismissed in North Carolina?

Getting your DWI charge dismissed in North Carolina requires a strong and well-constructed defense. Engaging an experienced DWI defense lawyer is critical. Your defense lawyer can examine every aspect of your arrest and the evidence collected to identify procedural missteps, violations of your legal rights, or flaws in the case against you. Prompt action and consultation with a qualified DWI defense attorney can significantly increase your odds of a favorable outcome, possibly including a dismissal.

Is It Possible to Get out of a DWI in North Carolina?

Avoiding a DWI conviction is within the realm of possibility, but it hinges on the implementation of a compelling defense strategy tailored to the specifics of your case. Common defense angles involve disputing the legitimacy of BAC test results or demonstrating that the officer lacked a valid reason for the initial traffic stop. A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can navigate the legal system on your behalf, negotiate with prosecutors, and work toward a reduction or dismissal of the charges against you.

Can a Felony Limit My Career in North Carolina?

Yes, having a felony on your record can limit your career options in North Carolina. Many employers perform background checks before hiring new employees. If they see a felony conviction on your record, they might decide not to hire you, especially if the job involves trust, security, or working with vulnerable populations. However, not all hope is lost. A skilled defense lawyer can help you explore legal processes like expungement to restore certain rights and opportunities after a felony conviction.

Can You Get Probation for a Felony in North Carolina?

Yes, you can get probation for a felony in North Carolina. Probation is a common alternative to serving time in jail or prison for those convicted of felonies. This could be an option depending on the severity of the offense and your criminal history. When a court sentences someone to probation, it means they can live in their community under specific conditions instead of being incarcerated. These conditions might include regular check-ins with a probation officer, drug testing, community service, counseling, or avoiding certain people and places.

Does a Felony Ever Go Away in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, a felony conviction does not automatically go away or get removed from your record. However, under certain conditions, you might be eligible for expungement, which is the legal process of removing a conviction from your public record. Your eligibility for expungement depends on factors like the type of felony, how much time has passed since the conviction or completion of the sentence, and your criminal history. A North Carolina expungements lawyer can provide guidance on whether your felony conviction qualifies for this clean slate.

Contact a DWI & Criminal Defense Lawyer in North Carolina

If you’re facing a DWI charge in North Carolina, don’t wait to get the help you need. Call (336) 554-7881 for an initial consultation with Greenwood Law’s DWI defense team, and let’s start working toward a solution together.