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DWI Aggravating Factors

A sentencing hearing follows a DWI conviction in North Carolina. At the hearing, the judge (or, in some cases, jury) will hear a variety of facts about the defendant and about the circumstances surrounding the incident leading to arrest. The district attorney may present grossly aggravating and aggravating factors particular to your case that would result in the judge ordering a harsher punishment.

The prosecutor must prove these factors exist beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant’s lawyer can challenge them.

Aggravating Factors in a Raleigh DWI Case

A dedicated Raleigh DWI defense lawyer from the Coolidge Law Firm will aggressively fight the prosecutor’s attempts to worsen your DWI sentence by challenging the factors he brings forward, as well as present any mitigating factors that may exist in your case.

If you were unrepresented or had poor representation during your District Court case, you have the right to appeal to Superior Court.  This appeal essentially wipes out the previous finding of guilt and allows you to have a new trial before a jury in Superior Court.  We can help you file this appeal and represent you in Superior Court.  But, you only have 10 days from the day the judge sentences you to appeal.  DO NOT WAIT.  Call us immediately for a free consultation.

We represent clients throughout Wake County, including Raleigh, Cary, Morrisville, Apex, Garner, Holly Springs, Wendell, Knightdale and Fuquay-Varina.


Overview of DWI Aggravating Factors


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List of Aggravating Factors

North Carolina General Statutes § 20-179 lists the aggravating factors that can cause a judge to sentence you at a harsher sentencing level requiring more severe punishment. The aggravating factors are:

  1. Gross impairment of the defendant’s faculties while driving or an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more within a relevant time after the driving. For purposes of this subdivision, the results of a chemical analysis presented at trial or sentencing shall be sufficient to prove the person’s alcohol concentration, shall be conclusive, and shall not be subject to modification by any party, with or without approval by the court.
  2. Especially reckless or dangerous driving.
  3. Negligent driving that led to a reportable accident.
  4. Driving by the defendant while his driver’s license was revoked.
  5. Two or more prior convictions of a motor vehicle offense not involving impaired driving for which at least three points are assigned under G.S. 20‑16 or for which the convicted person’s license is subject to revocation, if the convictions occurred within five years of the date of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced, or one or more prior convictions of an offense involving impaired driving that occurred more than seven years before the date of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced.
  6. Conviction under G.S. 20-141.5 of speeding by the defendant while fleeing or attempting to elude apprehension.
  7. Conviction under G.S. 20-141 of speeding by the defendant by at least 30 miles per hour over the legal limit.
  8. Passing a stopped school bus in violation of G.S. 20-217.
  9. Any other factor that aggravates the seriousness of the offense.

NOTE: Except for the factor in (5), the conduct constituting the aggravating factor must have occurred during the same incident as the impaired driving offense.


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Grossly Aggravating Factors

The state may also offer grossly aggravating factors as defined by statute.  One grossly aggravating factor will result in a Level DWI judgment for a DWI conviction.   Having three or more grossly aggravating factors proven beyond a reasonable doubt can allow the judge to sentence a DWI conviction as an Aggravated Level 1, which requires a minimum prison term of one year. The grossly aggravating factors are:

  1. A prior conviction for an offense involving impaired driving if:
    1. The conviction occurred within seven years before the date of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced; or
    2. The conviction occurs after the date of the offense for which the defendant is presently being sentenced, but prior to or contemporaneously with the present sentencing; or
    3. The conviction occurred in district court; the case was appealed to superior court; the appeal has been withdrawn, or the case has been remanded back to district court; and a new sentencing hearing has not been held pursuant to G.S. 20-38.7.
    NOTE: Each prior conviction is a separate grossly aggravating factor.
  2. Driving by the defendant at the time of the offense while his or her driver’s license was revoked for impaired driving.
  3. Serious injury to another person caused by the defendant’s impaired driving at the time of the offense.
  4. Driving by the defendant while (i) a child under the age of 18 years, (ii) a person with the mental development of a child under the age of 18 years, or (iii) a person with a physical disability preventing unaided exit from the vehicle was in the vehicle at the time of the offense.

A DWI is at least a Level 1 offense if: a person in the vehicle was younger than 18, had a mental disability that causes the person to have the mental capacity of a person younger than 18, or had a physical disability that would have prevented the person from escaping the vehicle.


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Finding the Best Wake County Attorney to Fight DWI Aggravating Factors

If you are concerned about the circumstances surrounding your impaired-driving charge or you have just been found guilty in District Court and want to know about your right to appeal to Superior Court, contact a skilled Raleigh DWI attorney at the Coolidge Law Firm. We represent clients throughout Wake County, including Wake County, including Raleigh, Cary, Morrisville, Apex, Garner, Holly Springs, Wendell, Knightdale and Fuquay-Varina.

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David Coolidge
David A. Coolidge
is heading up our team as criminal defense attorney and graduate at the top of his class from Duke University School of Law ...
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Steven MacGilvray
Steven P. MacGilvray
Steven P. MacGilvray is an Associate Attorney at Coolidge Law Firm, focusing primarily on Criminal Defense. Mr. MacGilvray graduated from Regent University School of Law ...
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Brent Blakesley
Brent Blakesley
manages the daily operations at Coolidge Law Firm. Brent graduated from Duke University in 2008 with a BA in Computer Science, BA in Linguistics ...
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