What you need to know about DWI charges in Monroe NC
DWI charges are serious and can lead to serious penalties. If you have been charged with driving while impaired, there is a good chance you have a lot of questions. That’s normal.
This blog post will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about DWI charges in Monroe NC to help you know what to expect.
What happens if you get arrested for a DUI in Union County?
If you are arrested for driving while impaired, the officer should inform you of your rights, especially if they plan on asking you questions as part of a “custodial interrogation.”
Defense lawyers may refer to that as your Mirana Rights which include informing you that anything you say can be used against you in court and that you have the right to remain silent. That “advisement” also includes you have the right to speak with an attorney before questioning takes place.
To be clear, Miranda Rights are not always required. The failure to advise you of your Miranda Rights does not necessarily automatically result in a dismissal of DWI charges.
If BAC tests are administered, there are certain rights regarding blood or breath testing under the NC DWI laws. Field sobriety tests like the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, One Leg Stand, and Walk and Turn test, do not require advisement of legal rights.
After an arrest, the charging officer may transport you for breath or blood testing. Thereafter, people who are arrested for DWI are taken to jail and meet with the Magistrate to determine the terms and conditions of release, if any.
After an arrest for a DWI, you will be given a notice of your court date and time which may not happen right away depending on the circumstances.
You may be entitled to a Limited Driving Privilege in certain circumstances. That may involve obtaining a substance abuse assessment and DL-123 from your insurance company.
People who are arrested for driving while impaired should seek out the advice of an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible to help prepare their case.
What is the legal drinking limit?
In NC, the “legal drinking limit” is a blood or breath alcohol content of .079. That means a BAC .08 or more is enough for a conviction under N.C.G.S. 20-138.1.
You can be charged with driving while impaired if a police officer believes you are “appreciably impaired,” even without a BAC reading.
Appreciable Impairment means that the defendant has consumed an impairing substance to such an extent that his or her mental and/or physical faculties are impaired to an appreciable amount.
“Appreciable” means something that is capable of being observed or described in court.
You can still be charged with a DWI even if your BAC is below .08. If it’s not an alcohol-related charge, there are other drugs and medicines that may impair some drivers.
If the police officer observes erratic driving and determines that there is probable cause to believe you are operating a vehicle under the influence of an impairing substance, they may decide to arrest you. That’s often called the “arrest decision.”
What evidence does the State have to prove?
In a DWI case, the State must prove that you were “appreciably impaired.” That can be by something other than alcohol, including both prescription medications and illegal drugs like marijuana.
They do this generally through chemical tests and police observations of your driving that suggest impairment.
The prosecutor assigned to the case, who is often referred to as the “State” or the “Assistant District Attorney” or “DA,” carries the burden of proof.
For DWI charges in Monroe, their job is to show through the evidence that you operated a vehicle on a public street or highway in Union County, NC while subject to an impairing substance.
Appreciable impairment can involve testimony about how you acted at the time of the arrest, whether you had an odor of alcohol about your person, the existence of Red, Glassy eyes, and other factors indicating impairment.
The State may also show that at any relevant time after driving you had a BAC of .08 or higher. The Blood Alcohol Content or Blood Alcohol Concentration can be proven using a breath test, blood testing, or a urine test.
Sometimes people refer to DWI breath testing as the “Breathalyzer.”
The approved evidentiary breath testing device is formally known as the Intoximeter EC/IR II.
The District Attorney may also prove the BAC by introducing evidence of a blood test.
If you have questions about breath or blood testing for a DWI case, we think it’s a good idea to speak with an experienced DWI defense attorney in Monroe, NC.
Is DWI a felony or a misdemeanor in North Carolina?
Driving while impaired is ordinarily a misdemeanor, but there are instances when DWI charges may be part of a felony offense. Habitual Impaired Driving in North Carolina is a felony.
A DWI charge may be considered a “predicate offense” for felony charges. For example, if someone dies as a result of a violation of N.C.G.S. 20-138.1 you may be charged with Felony Death by Vehicle.
If the Defendant causes serious injury to another person while DWI, they may be charged with Felony Serious Injury by Vehicle. In both instances, the alleged impaired driving must be a proximate cause of the fatality or serious bodily injury.
What’s the difference between DWI and DUI in North Carolina?
What is a DUI? What is DWI? What is Driving Under the Influence?
The impaired driving law is set forth in N.C.G.S. 20-138.1 and explains the offense simply as “impaired driving.” Under that law, you may be “under the influence” of an impairing substance.
As such, while many people may refer to the offense as DUI, meaning driving under the influence of alcohol, or DWI thinking that means Driving While Intoxicated, as a practical matter, there is not much difference.
Under the DWI laws, impairment can mean a blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) at .08% or higher, but it also includes being impaired by other substances such as marijuana or prescription medications.
The DWI laws are notoriously complicated and each case is different. There may a defense against the charges and mitigating factors if convicted. Our Monroe DWI defense lawyers review the facts of the case and provide a free consultation.
We suggest that if you’ve been arrested for DWI, and before you plead guilty, that you speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Monroe with substantial experience handling DWI cases.
Is Drunk Driving the same as DWI in North Carolina?
The answer is no. You do not need to be “drunk” or “drunk driving” to be convicted of Driving While Impaired.
Clearly, drunk driving is illegal. If you are visibly drunk, you are “appreciably impaired.” At the same time, you do not need to be fall-down drunk to be arrested and charged.
The legal standard is much, much less stringent. In fact, you may be properly charged with a blood or breath reading of .08 or higher. The law also allows for a conviction if you have any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance under N.C.G.S. 90-89. That includes things like opiates or opioids and fentanyl derivatives.
In North Carolina, DWI cases are prosecuted under N.C.G.S 20-138. If you’re convicted of Driving While Impaired (DWI), that will be on your criminal record or “public” offense.
The criminal offense of Driving While Impaired can have significant consequences for your driver’s license and the privilege to drive in North Carolina.
Can I refuse a chemical test when stopped for DWI?
When stopped for DWI, under the Implied Consent law in North Carolina, you can be requested to submit to a breath or blood test.
You can refuse the chemical testing but that likely will have adverse consequences on your driver’s license.
A Willful Refusal is not considered a separate criminal charge in North Carolina.
If you are licensed by the NC Department of Transportation, Division of Motor Vehicles, the charging officer may seize your license if you Wilfully Refuse to submit to breath testing or a request for a blood test.
If you are licensed somewhere else, the State may suspend your ability to drive on the public streets, roadways, and/or highways in North Carolina. NCDMV will ordinarily transmit notice of a Willful Refusal to your home state. That’s true also if you are convicted of DWI charges in North Carolina.
What are the punishments for a DWI in Monroe NC?
There is a wide range of penalties if you are convicted of DWI. That may include fines, community service, completing a substance abuse assessment, and possible license suspension. The Court considers mitigating factors, aggravating factors, and grossly aggravating factors if you are convicted of Monroe DWI charges.