DWI and Controlled Substances
Various public awareness campaigns over the last several decades have called attention to the dangers of drunk driving, and North Carolina as well as other states have enacted strict laws with harsh punishments. Alleged offenders may be charged with the crime North Carolina General Statute § 20-138.1 defines as impaired driving, commonly referred to as driving while impaired, driving while intoxicated, or simply DWI.
While this criminal offense is typically associated with alcohol, people may also be charged if police officers believe they were driving under the influence of a controlled substance or impairing substance. It is important to understand that these substances may include perfectly legal prescriptions or over-the-counter medications as well as illegal drugs.
Raleigh Controlled Substances DWI Lawyer
Were you recently arrested for DWI because you were allegedly under the influence of an impairing substance or controlled substance? Contact Coolidge Law Firm as soon as possible to make sure that you have skilled legal representation fighting to protect your rights.
Our Wake County drugged driving attorneys represent clients throughout the greater Raleigh area, including Cary, Apex, Wake Forest, Garner, Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina, Morrisville, and many other communities. Call (919) 239-8448 right now to have our firm provide a complete evaluation of your case during a free, confidential consultation.
Wake County Drugged Driving Information Center
- When can a person be charged with this crime?
- How is a punishment level determined in these types of cases?
- What are the possible consequences if an alleged offender is convicted?
- Are there any issues that may be raised with the results of drug tests?
Traditional DWI arrests in Tar Heel State involving alcohol often rely on alleged offenders having alcohol concentrations of 0.08 or more. However, North Carolina General Statute § 20-138.1 lists two other ways that a person may be charge with this crime:
- Driving while under the influence of an impairing substance
- Driving with any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance or its metabolites in his blood or urine
DWI is classified as a misdemeanor, but there are six different levels of punishment of this criminal offense. An alleged offender’s punishment level is determined at a sentencing hearing in which a judge weighs various aggravating and mitigating factors.
Under North Carolina General Statute § 20-179, a judge determines whether an alleged offender is subject to a Level Five, Level Four, or Level Three punishment based on whether there are more or less aggravating factors than mitigating factors. The Statute requires that a judge impose a Level Two, Level One, or Aggravated Level One punishment if there are a certain number of grossly aggravating factors.
Grossly aggravating factors under North Carolina General Statute § 20-179(c) include:
- An impaired driving conviction that was either within seven years before the date of the DWI involving controlled substances offense, after the date of the DWI and controlled substances offense, or is awaiting a sentencing hearing in district court following appeal
- Alleged offender was driving while his driver’s license was revoked because of an impaired driving revocation
- Alleged offender’s impaired driving caused serious injury to another person
- Alleged offender driving while a child under the age of 18 years, a person with the mental development of a child under the age of 18 years, or a person with a physical disability preventing unaided exit from the vehicle was in the vehicle
Grossly aggravating factors determine Level Two, Level One, and Aggravated Level One punishments. These punishment levels do not consider the existence of other mitigating or aggravating factors.
Aggravating factors and mitigating factors are used to determine Level Five, Level Four, and Level Three punishment levels. Aggravating factors under North Carolina General Statute § 20-179(d) include:
- Gross impairment of the alleged offender’s faculties while driving
- Especially reckless or dangerous driving
- Negligent driving that led to a reportable accident
- Alleged offender was driving while his driver’s license was revoked
- Two or more prior convictions for motor vehicle offenses not involving impaired driving for which at least three points are assigned or the alleged offender’s license is subject to revocation within five years of the date of the DWI and controlled substances offense
- One or more prior convictions of an offense involving impaired driving that occurred more than seven years before the date of DWI and controlled substances offense
- Conviction for speeding while fleeing or attempting to elude apprehension
- Conviction for speeding by at least 30 miles per hour over the legal limit
- Passing a stopped school bus
- Any other factor that aggravates the seriousness of the offense
Mitigating factors under North Carolina General Statute § 20-179(e) include:
- Driving at the time of the offense that was safe and lawful except for the impairment of the alleged offender’s faculties
- Alleged offender has a safe driving record with no conviction for any motor vehicle offense for which at least four points are assigned or the alleged offender’s license is subject to revocation within five years of the date of the DWI and controlled substances offense
- Impairment of the alleged offender’s faculties caused primarily by a lawfully prescribed drug for an existing medical condition, and the amount of the drug taken was within the prescribed dosage
- The alleged offender’s voluntary submission to a mental health facility for assessment after being charged with DWI and controlled substances offense
- Any other factor that mitigates the seriousness of the offense
After a judge reviews all of these factors, a punishment level will be set according to the following standards:
- Level Five Punishment — No grossly aggravating factors and mitigating factors substantially outweigh any aggravating factors
- Level Four Punishment — No grossly aggravating factors and no aggravating and mitigating factors or aggravating factors are substantially counterbalanced by mitigating factors
- Level Three Punishment — No grossly aggravating factors but aggravating factors substantially outweigh any mitigating factors
- Level Two Punishment — One grossly aggravating factor other than a passenger under the age of 18 years, a person with the mental development of a child under the age of 18 years, or a person with a physical disability preventing unaided exit from the vehicle was in the vehicle
- Level One Punishment — Two grossly aggravating factors or driving with a passenger under the age of 18 years, a person with the mental development of a child under the age of 18 years, or a person with a physical disability preventing unaided exit from the vehicle was in the vehicle
- Aggravated Level One Punishment — Three or more grossly aggravating factors
The possible punishments alleged offenders face if they are convicted of DWIs involving controlled substances depend on the punishment levels they are assigned. In accordance with North Carolina General Statute § 20-179, the statutory maximum possible sentences can include:
- Level Five Punishment — Fine of up to $200 and a term of imprisonment of up to 60 days
- Level Four Punishment — Fine of up to $500 and a term of imprisonment of up to 120 days
- Level Three Punishment — Fine of up to $1,000 and a term of imprisonment of up to six months
- Level Two Punishment — Fine of up to $2,000 and a term of imprisonment of up to 12 months
- Level One Punishment — Fine of up to $4,000 and a term of imprisonment of up to 24 months
- Aggravated Level One Punishment — Fine of up to $10,000 and a term of imprisonment of up to 36 months
A person may be charged with this crime for having any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance in his blood or urine. There are well over 100 different controlled substances listed among those classified as Schedule I in North Carolina General Statute § 90-89.
Alleged offenders who submit to tests of their blood or urine can be charged with DWIs involving controlled substances even if the Schedule I controlled substances were not active at the times they were driving. Even with casual users, Schedule I substances such as methaqualone, phencyclidine (PCP), or 3, 4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or Ecstasy) may still be detectable in a person’s urine and blood several days after its original consumption. Among more frequent users, certain drugs can stay in a person’s blood or urine for as long as a month.
Marijuana is an illegal drug that can stay in a person’s system for an especially long time. Even though cannabis is technically classified as a Schedule VI controlled substance in North Carolina, it can still be considered an impairing substance for the purposes of a DWI charge.
It is critical for motorists to remember that they are not required to provide any type of specimen for drug testing, despite what police officers might lead them to believe. While this will trigger an automatic revocation of driving privileges, it will also leave any prosecutor with no physical evidence of alleged impairment.
Even when a person does submit to testing, numerous errors or oversights by officers or other people responsible for samples can lead to false positives. An experienced attorney can review how these tests were conducted and handled. Mistakes may lead to criminal charges being significantly reduced or completely dismissed.
Find the Best DWI and Controlled Substances Lawyer in Raleigh
If you have been charged with DWI in North Carolina for allegedly being impaired by a controlled substance, you need skilled legal counsel. Coolidge Law Firm represents clients throughout Wake County, including students at such institutions of higher learning in the Research Triangle area as North Carolina State University, Wake Technical Community College (Wake Tech), Meredith College, William Peace University, Shaw University, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC).
Our firm knows how to fight these types of charges, and we will fully investigate every aspect of your arrest to develop the strongest possible defense. Impaired Driving Attorney David Coolidge never simply pleads a client guilty. Your case will be thoroughly evaluated and skillfully prepared for trial. You can have our Wake County controlled substance DWI attorneys review your case as soon as you call (919) 239-8448 to take advantage of a free consultation.