434 Fayetteville St #2030
Raleigh, NC 27601


Getting pulled over for DWI or driving while impaired can be one of the most frightening experiences. In a matter of seconds, you feel completely at the mercy of the police officer. It is important to know your rights after being stopped for DWI or if facing DWI charges.

Attorney David A. Coolidge of the Coolidge Law Firm has provided the answers to frequently asked questions about DWI charges. He welcomes the opportunity to answer specific questions about your case. Contact the Coolidge Law Firm by calling (919) 239-8448 or submitting an online form to receive a confidential review of your case.

Raleigh DWI Defense Frequently Asked Questions

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DWI Charges

Under N.C.G.S. § 20-138.1, it is illegal to drive a vehicle on public streets, highways, and vehicular areas under the influence of an impairing substance, including controlled substances or alcohol.

North Carolina courts have determined vehicles are not limited to just cars or trucks. An individual can be charged with DWI if under the influence of an impairing substance while operating a stand-up scooter, tractor, bicycle or all-terrain vehicle.

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Impairing Substances

Generally, people think DWI is limited to alcohol; however, the charge includes driving under the influence of any impairing substance. In addition to alcohol, controlled substances or drugs that could impair a person’s mental or physical faculties are considered impairing substances.

It is illegal to operate a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, certain prescription drugs, heroin, LSD, ecstasy, or any other controlled substance.

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Amount of Alcohol Consumed

Under North Carolina law, an individual may be charged with DWI if he or she has a blood alcohol content or concentration (BAC) of 0.08 of higher. BAC is determined by a chemical test. If the chemical test shows the individual’s blood contains eight parts or more of alcohol for every 10,000 parts of blood, the BAC is 0.08 or higher.

It is impossible to precisely predict or anticipate exactly how much alcohol will cause an individual’s BAC to reach 0.08 or higher. BAC depends on various factors including, but not limited to:

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Individuals Under the Age of 21

Generally, consumption of alcohol by a person under the age of 21 is illegal. As a result, if an individual under the age of 21 is suspected of driving a vehicle under the influence of any alcohol, he or she may be charged with Driving after Consuming under 21.  Even a BAC of 0.01 can result in someone under 21 being charged.

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Getting Pulled Over

Unless law enforcement has organized a DWI checkpoint, which may or may not be constitutional, an officer cannot pull someone over without reason. 

Legally, a law enforcement officer must have “reasonable articulable suspicion” to pull an individual over. Reasonable articulable suspicion is the legal standard which requires there be articulate, objective facts that would cause a person to believe criminal activity is occurring.

There is no exhaustive list of conduct that establishes reasonable suspicion. Generally, in DWI cases the following conduct can establish reasonable suspicion:

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Field Sobriety Test

If the officer suspects that a driver may be impaired, he will request that the driver perform one or more of the following standardized sobriety tests:

Learn more about Field Sobriety Tests here

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Field Sobriety Test Refusal

There are no criminal consequences for refusing to comply with an officer’s request to complete a field sobriety test. So, refuse the tests.  Do not do them.  The tests are designed to make you fail.  Do not take the roadside portable breath test (PBT) either. No harm will come from your refusal of this roadside test of your breath. 

If the officer arrests a driver for DWI, he will be brought before a chemical analyst (usually the same arresting officer) and asked to submit to a breath test on the EC/IR II.   Unlike the field sobriety tests and roadside portable breath test (PBT), refusing submit to the breath test on the EC/IR II will result in a one year revocation of the person’s driver’s license.

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Factors Judges Consider

When determining the appropriate sentence following a DWI conviction the judge considers all mitigating factors, aggravating factors, and grossly aggravating factors in a case. The judge then weighs all these factors when determining the appropriate DWI sentencing level.

Factors that the judge considers include:

“Grossly aggravating”factors – any one (1) – Level 2 sentence; any two (2) – Level 1 sentence; any three (3) – new Aggravated Level 1:

“Aggravating” factors:

“Mitigating” factors:

Learn more about the factors the judge considers here.

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Penalties and Consequences

There are six levels of punishment for DWI. The consequences depend on the specific facts of the case including certain mitigating, aggravating, and grossly aggravating factors. A person convicted of DWI will face one or more of the following consequences:

Learn more about DWI penalties and consequences here.

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Related Charges

Just because an individual is charged with DWI does not mean he or she cannot face additional charges related to the incident. For example, if the law enforcement officer arrests an individual for DWI and finds he is in the possession of a controlled substance, the individual can also face drug possession charges.

Common related DWI charges include but are not limited to:

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Coolidge Law Firm ǀ North Carolina DWI Defense Lawyer

David Coolidge of the Coolidge Law Firm is an experienced DWI defense lawyer. He has extensive trial experience defending individuals charged with DWI and other accompanying charges.

He proudly represents clients throughout North Carolina, including Raleigh, Wake Forest, Garner, Holly Springs, Morrisville, Fuquay-Varina, Cary, Apex, and the surrounding areas. Contact the Coolidge Law Firm at (919) 239-8448 or submit an online form to schedule a free, confidential consultation.

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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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Chelsea Flynt
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Brent Blakesley
manages the daily operations at Coolidge Law Firm. Brent graduated from Duke University in 2008 with a BA...
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