“Have you been drinking tonight?” can be some of the scariest words that no one wants to hear from an officer who just pulled them over. Once you answer yes or the officer determines that your breath smells of alcohol, most officers believe that they’ve got you for driving while impaired. North Carolina and the prosecutors here in Wake County vigorously prosecute all DWI cases and aim to get a conviction in every single case no matter what they have to do.
DWI convictions can lead to a host of problems including jail, loss of license, exorbitant fines, loss of job, and even confiscation of your car However, do not assume you’re guilty just because an officer charges you with DWI. The law provides for the assumption of innocence and as experienced DWI defense attorneys, we will do everything in our power to challenge the prosecution’s evidence and defend your rights so that you remain innocent of this charge.
Raleigh DWI Lawyer
At Coolidge Law Firm, we fight for the freedom of people accused of drunk driving in Wake County. We know how to fight DWI charges. No case is hopeless. We will develop a unique strategy based upon the specific circumstances of your case that can challenge any test result police bring forward and counter the prosecution’s experts with experts of our own. We will obtain every piece of evidence that exists in your case. From dash cam videos to officer’s notes, reports, and maintenance logs of the breathalyzer machine. Nothing will go unexamined. We will expose any procedural mistake in an effort to have your charge dismiss or a not guilty verdict to be returned.
Contact a skilled Raleigh DWI defense lawyer at (919) 239-8448 to schedule a free consultation. The time is ticking to save your license, so call right away.
We represent clients throughout Wake County, including Raleigh, Cary, Morrisville, Apex, Wake Forest, Knightdale, Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs and Garner. They include students from the many surrounding schools, including Duke University, North Carolina State University (NCSU), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Wake Technical Community College (Wake Tech), Meredith College, William Peace University and Shaw University.
Wake County Impaired Driving Information
- North Carolina Law on DWI
- The DWI Stop in Wake County
- DMV Hearing After Test Refusal
- Levels of DWI Charges
- Penalties of a DWI
It is illegal, under N.C.G.S. § 20-138.1, to drive a vehicle on the public streets, highways and vehicular areas of North Carolina under the influence of any impairing substance, including alcohol. The charge is called Driving While Impaired, or “DWI,” in North Carolina. Some people may refer to it as “DUI.”
If a chemical tests shows your blood contains eight parts or more of alcohol for every 10,000 parts of blood (0.08 percent) and you are driving, you may also be charged with DWI. Blood alcohol content (BAC) depends on many factors, including weight, metabolism, sex, food consumed, the type of drink consumed and how quickly they were consumed. It is not as simple as “two drinks.”
“Impairing substance” goes beyond alcohol. It is illegal to drive, for instance, while faculties are impaired due to marijuana or prescription drugs. Under the law, it is illegal to drive with any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance or its metabolites in the blood or urine. Schedule I includes heroin, LSD and Ecstasy (MDMA).
For suspects under 21, the law does not permit you to have any alcohol in your system whatsoever. So even a BAC of 0.01 would result in your being charged.
There are few greater feelings of apprehension a person can experience than when police lights go off behind them, ordering them to pull over. What happens during a DWI stop — the rights the suspect asserts and how closely police officers follow procedure — can dramatically affect the outcome of any DWI investigation.
An officer may not simply pull over any vehicle on the street and test the driver for drunk driving. They must have “reasonable articulable suspicion.” Reasonable suspicion is an articulable set of facts that a person could look at and objectively argue that criminal activity is afoot.
It is not enough to say that a person was leaving the Downtown Raleigh area at 2 a.m., or that they were driving a car typically driven by people partying.
Behavior police often give as evidence of reasonable suspicion includes;
- Weaving in and out of lanes
- Rolling through stop signs or traffic signals
If police did not have reasonable suspicion to pull a person over, that person’s defense lawyer can file a motion to suppress all evidence that resulted from the stop. In most circumstances, this will leave the prosecutor with no choice but to dismiss the charges.
The DUI Test
If an officer pulls a person over and suspects him or her of driving while under the influence, the officer will ask the driver to perform a test to determine whether he or she is impaired. Tests for impairment can include:
- Breath Test: In North Carolina, officers use the Intox EC/IR II device to measure the amount of alcohol in the breath.
- Blood Test: Officers may test the blood of a person suspected of driving while intoxicated.
- Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST): These tests are designed to determine a driver’s impairment by considering the person’s balance, coordination, and ability to divide his or her attention among several tasks at once.
Anyone can refuse to perform any standardized field sobriety tests without consequence. These tests are voluntary. Refusing to perform these standardized tests or other non-standardized tests which the police may use (alphabet test, finger-to-nose, finger dexterity, or other non-sense) can deny prosecutors crucial evidence in proving someone’s impairment. Do NOT help them to convict you by performing any voluntary test.
While you can refuse to perform any field sobriety testing, you cannot refuse to provide a sample of your breath without losing your driving privilege for one year. Officers can also apply for search warrant to obtain a sample of your blood if your refuse to perform the breath test. Your blood will be tested for alcohol so refusing the breath test may ultimately not only result in the prosecutors knowing your BAC but also you losing your right to drive for one year.
If you provide a sample of your breath as requested by the officer, and the result is .08 or above (.04 if you are a commercial driver, or .01 if you are under 21), your license will be revoked for 30 days. You cannot drive for these 30 days unless permitted to do so under a pre-trial limited driving privilege.
The standardized and non-standardized tests used by officers, the portable breath device, and the breathalyzer used to confirm your BAC have issues which can be exposed by an experienced DWI defense attorney. Officers often get lazy and do not perform these tests according to protocol. The breath machine may not have been properly calibrated. At Coolidge Law Firm, we use our own expert, Doug Scott, a 27-year veteran of the Cary Police Department and former commander of their traffic safety department to evaluate certain cases. We hold the state to the highest standard and defend your rights at all costs
To arrest you for driving while impaired, the officer must have probable cause. Probable cause means that sufficient evidence exists that an average officer in similar circumstances can reasonably infer that a person has committed a crime, in this case DWI. The standard here is higher than that for reasonable articulable suspicion but still lower than beyond a reasonable doubt.
Under N.C.G.S. § 20-16.2, any person who drives on the roadways of North Carolina has given “implied consent” to a chemical analysis of their blood. As stated, a driver may refuse the test. However, if he or she does so, it is contrary to the “implied consent” provision. The state, therefore, may take civil action in the form of suspending the person’s driving privileges.
Upon refusal, The DMV will revoke your license for 12 months. The revocation period begins 10 days after the DMV mails you notice of the revocation. If caught driving during the revocation period, you will face another offense, Driving While License Revoked (DWLR).
You do have the right to appeal this revocation and request a hearing before the DMV. You must submit this request during the 10 day period before the revocation becomes effective. As your attorney, we can challenge validity of the DWI stop as well as the willfulness of your refusal.
To keep your license, it is absolutely imperative to act immediately. Call us now so we can begin working on your defense.
North Carolina currently has 6 levels of punishment for a DWI conviction: Levels 1 through 5, plus an Aggravated Level 1. A Level 5 DWI has the least severe penalties, while an Aggravated Level 1 has the worst.
Contrary to public misperception, judges do not sentence someone to a worse punishment (sentencing level) just because they chose to challenge their DWI at trial. Rather judges consider the absence or presence of mitigating, aggravating, and grossly aggravating factors in your case. Factors may relate to:
The judge may consider as a mitigating factor that you’re driving at the time of the offense was otherwise safe and lawful except for being impaired. At the same time, a judge must also consider, especially reckless driving, speeding more than 30 miles per hour, fleeing or eluding a police officer or passing a school bus as aggravating factors. Negligent driving that leads to an accident is also an aggravating factor, and all judges will find a grossly aggravating factor if you caused serious injury to a person as a result of your drunk driving.
Level of Intoxication
Having a BAC of .09 or below or being impaired due to taking a prescribed medication will be considered a mitigating factor. However, having a BAC of .15 or above will result in the judge finding an aggravating factor.
Non-DWI Driving Record
Having a driving record free of serious traffic offenses for the past 5 years qualifies as a mitigating factor. A record with two or more serious traffic convictions is an aggravating factor.
Prior DWI Offenses
DWI convictions within the past seven years count as a grossly aggravating factor for each conviction. A defendant with three or more prior DWI convictions can be tried as a habitual DWI offender and face a minimum one year jail sentence which cannot be suspended and must be served without exception.
It is also a grossly aggravating factor to be convicted of driving while impaired with a license that has been revoked due to another DWI charge.
Passenger is a Child or Has a Disability
Who you have in the vehicle when an officer charges you with DWI can affect your sentence upon conviction. Having passengers younger than 18, or who have the mental capacity of someone under age 18, or even passengers who have a disability that would prevent them from escaping the vehicle in an accident would result in the sentencing judge finding a grossly aggravating factor. Having these factors would cause you to be sentenced with a Level 1 DWI.
The punishment for a DWI conviction depends the sentencing level assigned by the judge. The judge basis his decision after weighing the grossly aggravating, aggravating and mitigating factors of a particular case. Based upon the sentencing level, punishments for DWI convictions include:
- Jail time
- Community service
- Driver’s license revocation
- Required abstinence from alcohol
- Ignition interlock device, once driving privileges have been restored
Finding the Best Drunk Driving Defense Attorney in Wake County
Every second counts. You need the help of an experience DWI defense attorney as soon as possible. If you face charges for drunk driving in Wake County, including in Raleigh, Cary, Morrisville, Apex, Wake Forest, Wendell, Zebulon, and Rolesville, call an experienced Raleigh DWI defense lawyer today. Call us at (919) 239-8448 to schedule a free consultation.