If you were arrested under suspicion of DWI in North Carolina, you are probably the most concerned about being sentenced to time in jail. While North Carolina does have very strict punishments for those convicted of driving while intoxicated, there are ways to improve your chances of avoiding jail time, and our DWI attorneys in Wake County are taking this opportunity to share what you need to do.
What Happens After Being Charged with a DWI
After being arrested on a suspicion of driving while intoxicated you will receive a citation with your court date in order to face your charges. It’s important to note that driving while intoxicated doesn’t just include drunk driving, it can also include a driver who is considered to have their driving abilities hindered due to prescription medicine they have taken, even if the medication is prescribed to them.
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself is to remain silent. Often, the most damaging evidence is what a suspect says as well as circumstantial evidence, and because you have the right to remain silent, this is generally the best course of action. Remember, remaining silent does not give you the right to resist arrest or give false information – both of these can be used against you whereas simply remaining silent can’t.
We highly recommend refusing field sobriety tests and portable, roadside breathalyzer tests as these often have flawed results and will do more harm to a case. However, once you are at the station, you have to decide if you will submit to alcohol breath testing. If you refuse, your license will be suspended immediately, but it is still within your rights to do so.
Consult with an Attorney
As soon as you are able to consult with an attorney, you should do so. You have limited time to appeal any suspension of your license, but more importantly, your lawyer will help you understand your legal options and work on a strategy that can help you avoid jail time.
DWI Sentencing Guidelines in North Carolina
If your attorney can’t get the charges dropped or reduced to reckless driving or something similar, a DWI conviction does not mean having to spend time in jail. The court looks at several factors as well as prior records
There are three types of factors a judge will use to determine what level of sentence the court will impose.
- Mitigating: These are factors that will allow leniency, such as a safe driving record, impairment caused by legally prescribed medication, or completing a substance abuse treatment program.
- Aggravating: These cause the court to consider minor issues that can lead to a more strict penalty, such as reckless driving, a previous DWI that was more than 7 years prior, or driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.15 or above.
- Grossly Aggravating: These factors are the most severe and lead to the most serious consequences, such as DWI with a child in the vehicle, recurrent DWIs, or causing serious injury to someone else caused by driving while intoxicated.
Once the mitigating, aggravating, and grossly aggravating circumstances are determined and weighed by the judge, the sentence is determined.
Six Tiers of DWI Sentencing
There are six levels of DWI sentencing, with Level A1, Level 1, and Level 2 applying if you have previously been convicted of a DWI or you have grossly aggravating factors. On the other hand, if you have mitigating or aggravating factors, but it’s your first offense, you may be sentenced more lightly, at Level 3, Level 4, or Level 5.
While a jail sentence may be imposed at every level, the judge is more likely to suspend the term in exchange for probation, community service, or a fine. While Level 2 penalties are also severe, with up to one year in prison, the judge may allow you to complete alcohol abstinence and monitoring instead. However, Level 1 and Level A1 sentences almost always have jail sentences due to the presence of grossly aggravating circumstances.
Do You Need a DWI Attorney?
Absolutely. Having experienced legal counsel is one of the most effective ways to avoid jail after a DWI. Their first goal is to try and have charges dropped or avoid a conviction, but when that is not possible, they will strive to minimize your sentence and achieve the best practical results. Your lawyer will fight on your behalf to highlight mitigating circumstances that can lead to a lighter punishment as well as fight back against allegations of aggravating factors that lead to harsher penalties.
Schedule a Consultation with a DWI Attorney in Raleigh, Wake County
If you are facing DWI charges and need an experienced, affordable attorney, reach out to the Law Offices of J.M. Kotzker. We have the experience and dedication necessary to advocate on your behalf to achieve favorable and practical outcomes to help you move forward after facing DWI charges. Call us today at (919) 439-5104 or fill out the form below to get started.