There is a fair amount of confusion in North Carolina about DWI charges. The general public may call that type of criminal charge different things like DUI, driving under the influence, driving while intoxicated, and even drunk driving.
Under the NC criminal laws, the offense is simply titled: Impaired Driving. It frankly can be a bit complicated, which adds to the level of confusion. What really matters is how you respond to the charges, not what they’re called.
If you’ve been charged and arrested in Monroe, given the potential consequences of a conviction, your case deserves the attention of an experienced defense attorney – Bill Powers, Monroe DWI lawyer
What is DUI?
DUI is “driving under the influence” of an impairing substance. Many people think of being under the influence of alcohol, failing to understand other substances can impair you.
Indeed, the N.C.G.S. 20-4.01(48b) still references driving under the influence. Sometimes defense lawyers may refer to that as the appreciable impairment prong of the DWI law. It’s important you understand, there is more than one way to be convicted of impaired driving.
You may be found guilty of DWI if you lose control of your normal mental or physical faculties to an appreciable extent. Police officers trained in DWI detection look for signs of impairment.
In simple terms, if alcohol or other impairing substances affect you to such extent that it’s noticeable, appreciable, and/or capable of description, that’s appreciable impairment.
That may come as a surprise to you. It’s not a very high standard. You do not have to be drunk to be convicted of DWI in Monroe NC.
Drunk driving is still illegal. If you are drunk and driving, you can be convicted. That’s true in instances of slight impairment. “Buzzed driving” is DWI in NC.
I didn’t mean to drive while impaired. Prescribed Medications and the NC DWI Laws
Impaired driving is not what lawyers refer to as a specific intent crime. You don’t have to mean to drive while impaired. It can be accidental impairment or impairment caused by both legal and illegal drugs.
Prescriptions drugs in North Carolina can impair you. That’s one reason warning labels are now common on many medications. Doctors, nurses, and pharmacists are careful to explain some of the side-effects of medications.
Some medications magnify the effects of alcohol. For example, mixing booze and benzos is a really bad idea. If you’re prescribed Xanax, alprazolam and alcohol can be an extremely dangerous mix – Bill Powers, Criminal Defense Lawyer
There are several different categories of controlled substances. They are classified under both federal and state law. You may have heard of a “Schedule I” or “Schedule II” drug.
If you voluntarily took a drug or medication, the effects of impairment on your mind and body can be held against you. It is extraordinarily difficult to provide Involuntary Intoxication or Automatism in North Carolina.
What is the per se impairment prong in North Carolina?
This too is a source of confusion. The legal limit in NC is 0.079, not .08. If you have a blood or breath alcohol content of .08 or higher, that’s enough to convict you to DWI in NC.
The confusion lies with the use of the term per se, which is Latin for “in and of itself.” Contrary to occasional arguments in court, per se does not mean your automatically guilty of DWI in North Carolina if you blow .08 or higher or have a .08 blood reading.
If that were the case, we wouldn’t need judges or juries. If you could be convicted solely by using a machine, that could be handled in the Intox room in Union County NC. The State is still required to prove ever criminal charge Beyond a Reasonable Doubt in North Carolina.
A breath or blood or even urine reading of .08 or higher may be evidence of impairment. Indeed, it may very well prove enough to be found guilty of DWI charges.
At the same time, the finder of fact (normally either a Judge or Jury in NC) must believe the number is accurate. The finder of fact is given the option to choose to believe or not believe the evidence presented at trial. Jurors are said to the be the sole judge of the admissible evidence and are given the opportunity to believe all, none, or any part of the evidence in court.
As such, the judge may find you guilty of DWI in NC if .08 or higher. They are not compelled under the law to do so.
Defense lawyers are careful to point out the difference between “may” and “must.”
The inverse is also true. You may be found guilty of DWI in NC if the reading is below .08. You may still be appreciably impaired.
Criminal Defense Lawyers in Monroe NC – Powers Law Firm PA
If you have a question about DWI charges in Union County, North Carolina, we’re here to help. For criminal charges, we offer a FREE CONSULTATION. Everything you tell our defense lawyers is strictly confidential.
Even if you choose to go another direction or handle the matter yourself, that’s OK. We don’t charge legal fees to talk to you, answer questions, and provide general guidance.
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Bill Powers may also be reached at Bill@CarolinaAttorneys.com