What happens if someone gets a DWI in North Carolina?

A police officer can stop your car at license check points or if the officer notices you do something “suspicious” because the law states an officer must “encounter you during the lawful course of his duties.” This leaves a pretty wide range of ways for an officer to lawfully encounter a driver.  This does not mean, however,  that your attorney can not challenge the reason you were “encountered.”

When a suspect gets stopped by police for whatever reason the officer may request the driver perform “standardized field sobriety tests” or blow into a hand held Breathalyzer. Neither of these is required by law. However, if a driver is not impaired participating could help the driver not be charged by the officer who stopped him or her by demonstrating that he or she is not impaired. If the driver chooses not to participate in the tests, he or she should be as respectful to the officer as possible in refusing (as well as at all other times during the arrest). Being disrespectful in any way could cause the driver problems in court.

If the officer believes he or she has reasonable suspicion that the driver might be Driving While Impaired, the Officer will then arrest the driver and take him or her to the police station. At the station, the arrested person is requested to blow into the Breathalyzer. If the offender refuses to blow into the Breathalyzer at the station, he or she will be charged with “refusal to submit to chemical analysis” and will probably be charged with DWI as well. Refusal to submit to chemical analysis will be used as “evidence of impairment” in court. The driver can request a blood test but will have to have an appropriate medical professional draw the blood within a short time frame, usually no more than about 40 minutes. The police will not usually escort the driver to the hospital at the driver’s request. The police can require a blood test for their purposes for instance if the driver appears impaired but the Breathalyzer reading appears too low for the amount of impairment observed, or if the driver is unconscious.

Every driver who registers .08 or higher will likely be charged and arrested for Driving While Impaired. After the charges are filed & the breath or blood test completed,  the driver will be taken to the magistrate to determine if he or she will be able to go home or to jail. This will be determined by the seriousness of the offense and by input from the police officer as to if he feels you pose a risk of getting into further trouble if you leave the station. Many people have been “released on their own recognizance” only to be right back in trouble in a few hours or less.

– At the police station, during the arrest, the driver’s license is revoked for 30 days (on first offense) in what is called a “civil revocation.” The civil revocation is required of everyone arrested for DWI.

– The offender can get a driving privilege 10 days after the arrest if the person gets a DWI Substance Abuse Assessment and complies with the outcome of the assessment . If the driver gets no assessment, he or she can pick up his or her driver’s license at the clerk of court’s office after 30 days has passed and by paying a $75 restoration fee at that time. The license is valid until the case is resolved in court.

– There are cases when the driver has been charged with DWI even though the Breathalyzer reading is less than .08. If the officer is convinced the driver is “impaired” he or she can still charge the driver with DWI. The officer will then need other evidence in court besides the Breathalyzer. People are sometimes convicted of DWI after smoking marijuana, using cocaine, pills or using other mood altering substances. Drivers are often charged with and NC DWI for driving after taking prescribed medication, even if taking it exactly as prescribed.  One can be convicted of DWI by taking prescribed medication in the correct dosage.

“A DUI is what brought me here. I was fairly nervous when I attended my first meeting but the anxiety subsided fairly quickly. The Group was very nice and the people were open and honest, it made me feel welcome right away. I learned that I’m not alone, and not the only one that has screwed up or made a mistake. Group also has been an eye opener just to see how quickly things can escalate and snowball into a full blown addiction. As far as changes in myself, I’ve seen that when I have nothing to do the next day, it doesn’t mean I need to go out and get wasted. I can honestly say that the DUI was one of the best things that could have happened to me as strange as that sounds.” Anonymous

– Refusal to blow the breathalyzer or submit breath or blood alcohol sample for the test is often not a good idea. Refusal to blow into the Breathalyzer at the station will cause the arrested person to automatically lose his or her driver’s license for 1 year even if found not guilty of DWI. If found guilty of DWI and refusal, the person can technically lose his or her license for at least 2 years, one year for refusal to blow the breathalyzer and one year for the DWI conviction, though a 2 year revocation doesn’t happen often on a first offense. The revocation is mandated by the NC Division of Motor Vehicles not by the court or Judge.

– If the driver refuses to submit to chemical analysis (blow into the Breathalyzer or submit to blood test), the driver cannot apply for a “limited driving privilege” until he or she has received a DWI Assessment and completed the entire recommended treatment level. When the DWI Substance Abuse Assessment and treatment are completed, the offender must wait 6 months from the date of revocation to apply for a Limited Driving Privilege. This only applies to those who refuse chemical analysis (Breathalyzer or blood test).

– If a first offender registers a .15 or higher B.A.C. (blood/breath alcohol concentration) on the Breathalyzer or blood test, he or she will be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device ( Monitech Ignition Interlock Systems or Smart Start). The Ignition Interlock must remain on the car for a minimum of 12 months,. A person who has been convicted of more than one DWI will also be required to install the Interlock Device and it must remain on the car for a period determined by the court or DMV, up to 4 or more years.

– The trial date is scheduled during the arrest when the person meets with the magistrate. The trial is usually scheduled for 4 to 6 weeks after the arrest date. Your attorney might postpone the trial to give the offender more time or to get a judge or prosecutor the attorney feels more comfortable working with. The person may or may not be put in jail depending on the seriousness of the DWI and depending on the decision of the police and magistrate. Often all the offender has to do is have someone pick them up and drive them home.  There are many known cases of arrested drivers returning to their cars and being arrested multiple times in the same day.

– It is an advantage for the arrested person to get a DWI Assessment and begin the level of treatment required before going to court. This is a “mitigating factor” and could lessen the severity of the punishment level and possibly assist in avoiding probation or jail time.

– If this is an offender’s first DWI arrest (lifetime), if he/she has a Blood or Breath Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .14 or less on the Breathalyzer, and there was no accident with personal injury or more than $500 property damage the offender might qualify for ADETS (Alcohol and Drug Education Traffic School). This is the shortest (16 hours) and lowest cost ($160) level that can be required by the DWI Assessment. All offenders who are convicted will be required to attend various levels of DWI Classes or Counseling Groups. Neither the judge nor anyone else can excuse the convicted offender from this requirement, even if it isn’t mentioned in court.

– If an offender has more than one offense, lifetime, he/she will be required to attend a minimum of the 20/30-hour, 40/60-hour, or 90-hour group , depending on the outcome of the assessment. Criteria for outcomes of the assessment are set by state law, not the person giving the assessment. An assessment and separate 508 Form is required for each DWI conviction, even if the arrests were on the same day. Only one treatment episode is required to suffice for more than one assessment if the person being assessed informs the assessor of all outstanding charges. ALL DWI ASSESSMENTS FOR NC DWIs COST $100. ALL AGENCIES ARE REQUIRED TO CHARGE $100. State law allows you to choose any DWI agency you’d like. Courts cannot mandate you choose an specific agency.

– If your Breathalyzer reading is .16 or more (in addition to having to install the Interlock device) you will possibly receive probation as part of you sentencing even on first offense . If it is a second or third offense you will most likely receive probation no matter what your Breathalyzer reading is. The probation may be supervised or unsupervised. If it is unsupervised probation you will not have to check in with a probation officer. If it is supervised, you will have to check in with the probation officer (P.O.), let the P.O. know your whereabouts, pay a monthly fee, and possibly submit to regular urine drug and alcohol screens.

– All persons convicted of DWI in NC are required to have a DWI assessment and complete the recommended treatment or ADETS before their license can be restored. Generally that means going to the 20/30-hour, 40/60-hour, 90-hour, or an inpatient treatment program. Dharma Counseling Substance Abuse and DWI Services is licensed for the 20/30, 40/60, and 90-hour programs.

The fee for the DWI assessment is $100. This fee is required by and regulated by the state. The fees for the treatment programs vary and a provider will charge whatever he or she feels is necessary and reasonable. Dharma Counseling Substance Abuse and DWI Services’ fees are reasonable and competitive.

At court, a client might be issued a “Limited Driving Privilege” by the judge. This is not guaranteed but is usually allowed for first offenses and some second offenses after 2 years. The judge will usually state that the offender cannot have a “Limited Driving Privilege” until he/she has had a DWI assessment. The court can require that the offender complete the treatment program before issuing a “Limited Driving Privilege (LDP)” if the judge chooses to do so.

The privilege is good for 365 days only and cannot be extended for any reason. If your 365 days of revocation is up and you can’t get to the DMV to get your license restored, any driving you do may be considered Driving While License Revoked. This can result in an additional year of revocation without the benefit of a Limited Driving Privilege and a $500 fine. Do not drive when your limited privilege is expired and you do not have your Driver’s License in hand. All persons in the State of NC who receive a “DWLR” (Driving While Licensed Revoked), and the license is suspended for DWI, must receive another DWI assessment and additional counseling may be required.  The state does not allow this to be optional, it is required in every instance of DWLR for a NC DWI offense.

It is strongly recommended that you get your Assessment and Groups started as soon as possible. The process often takes a few months to complete. This will delay restoration of your driver’s license if you wait too late! You absolutely cannot have your license restored until all assessment and education or counseling requirements are fully completed.

Your Limited Driving Privilege will not be extended if your requirements are not met before your revocation period is up. Once the period of revocation passes, you will not be given any type of driving privilege until all requirements are met, the “508 Form” is processed and entered into the computer by NC DMV and your full license is restored. You must make payment of a $75 restoration fee and an additional $15 for a new license.

Your license is not restored just because your revocation period has ended! You can be charged with Driving While Licensed Revoked (DWLR) until you are actually issued a new Driver’s License by the NC DMV.  People do not realize how long this process takes and that the Limited Driving Privilege can not be extended. They often end up having no driving privileges — sometimes for months — while they finish their requirements.

– Dharma Counseling is here to help you resolve your DWI problem. We will complete your DWI Assessment and get you started as quickly as possible, sometimes even the day you call. We know very well what you are going through. We will make sure you have everything you need concerning your assessment the day you come in if you bring your ticket,  Breathalyzer verification, a certified copy of your driving record from every state you have lived in, and your fee in cash, debit/credit card or money order. If you have all the above items, we will type a letter directly to your attorney, probation officer or others you request while you are at the office.

To complete the required documents to release your drivers license, you must contact us with your conviction date. We have no means of knowing if or when you are convicted of your DWI charge. The State  DMV, courts never inform us of your conviction date. To get your completion form (“508 form”) to the State to release the suspension of your driver’s license, let us know as soon as your case is resolved or the date you are convicted so we can immediately complete the “508 form”.  Otherwise, restoration of your driver’s license will be delayed. It is also helpful if you let us know if your case is dismissed or reduced so we can enter it into your record. If we don’t get the above information, your case file at the State DWI Services office will remain open indefinitely.

Please select OK to register for this level of treatment or CANCEL to go back to DCSNC.