Q & A: Driving While Impaired

What should I do if I’ve been charged with D.W.I. ?

First find out what your court date is. You or your attorney must appear in court and answer the District Attorney when he or she calls the calendar on that date. If you or your attorney doesn’t appear in court you could be later arrested because you failed to answer when your name was called out in court.

What exactly is Driving While Impaired?

It is a misdemeanor that has a different sentencing structure than other crimes. North Carolina has made it a crime to drive any vehicle on a public vehicular area or public road while under the influence of an impairing substance, or with an alcohol concentration of .08 or more. To convict a person of this offense the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  1. The Defendant was operating a motor vehicle
  2. The Defendant was on a public road or public vehicular area
  3. That the Defendant was under the influence of an impairing substance, or had an alcohol concentration of .08 or higher.

Because case law is constantly changing, it is important to discuss the elements of your case with an attorney experienced and knowledgeable in this area of the law.

If I’m charged with D.W.I., how can the help me?

While every case is different, the has developed a systematic approach to help our clients determine if their case is appropriate for a trial. If it is, we defend by planning and executing a trial strategy that is most likely to result in a not-guilty verdict. If we determine a negotiated guilty plea is in your best interest, we will plan a sentencing argument to obtain the least harshest penalty. We always educate our clients about the possible outcomes, and thoroughly prepare our clients for court.

What are some of the things the will investigate in order to prepare my case for court?

Some examples of what we look at would be the following:

  1. Can the State prove you were driving?
  2. Will the Officer remember you among all the other traffic stops he makes?
  3. Can the State prove that the road was state maintained or a public vehicular area and not a private road?
  4. Can the State prove that you were mentally or physically impaired or had a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more while you were operating the vehicle?
  5. Can the State prove that all of your tests were administered properly?
  6. Can the State prove that the results of your tests are accurate under the specific circumstances of your case?
  7. Was the evidence provided by the State collected in an unconstitutional or unlawful manner?
  8. Can the State prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt?

What happens if I decide to go to trial and the court finds me “not guilty”?

You can walk out of court a free person. The State cannot ever again bring charges against you for that same incident because it would again place you in jeopardy of loosing your freedom. This is know as “double jeopardy” and is prohibited.

What if the judge finds me guilty? What happens to me next?

There is always the option to appeal. After an appeal the case goes to Superior Court. Nothing that happened in the District Court will be considered in Superior Court. If you decide not to appeal the judge will hear arguments as to sentencing. Before determining the punishment, the Court must determine your sentencing level. There are five misdemeanor sentencing levels ranging from Level 1, the most serious, to Level 5, the least serious. The Court determines the sentencing level based upon statutory factors that are characterized as “grossly aggravating,” “aggravating,” or “mitigating.” Among factors considered are:

  1. Prior convictions for driving while impaired.
  2. Children under the age of 16 in the vehicle.
  3. Whether you obtained a substance abuse assessment prior to your case being heard in court.
  4. Your overall driving history.

After considering this, the judge will decide your punishment level:

If you are convicted, most of the time an attorney from the will argue you should be sentenced at the least harshest level – Level 5

If I’m charged with D.W.I. what is the bottom line? What do I need to do?

Hire an attorney to represent you in your case. D.W.I. is a serious crime and those convicted of it face harsh sentences. The has extensive experience handling D.W. I. cases throughout our judicial district, which consists of Bladen, Columbus, and Brunswick counties, North Carolina. Our office is located at 302 West Broad Street Elizabethtown, North Carolina. Our telephone number is (910) 862-2252.

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