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Driving While Impaired (DWI/DUI)

In North Carolina, the legal term for the offense of driving a vehicle while impaired due to alcohol, drugs, or other substances is called “Driving While Impaired,” or DWI. This offense may be referred to in other states, or commonly referred to, as Driving Under the Influence, or DUI.
The criminal defense lawyers at the Raleigh law firm of Tharrington Smith provide legal representation to those charged in Wake County, North Carolina, and the surrounding counties, with:

  • DWI; and
  • additional charges arising from or related to a DWI charge.

All 50 states currently have .08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) as the legal limit for which a driver may be charged with DWI. For commercial drivers, the threshold is much lower; having a BAC level of .04% can result in a DWI conviction. For persons under age 21, any level of blood alcohol concentration while driving can lead to a charge of DWI.

In order to be charged with DWI, it is not necessary to have consumed alcohol. You can be charged with DWI if you are under the influence of any impairing substance, including illegal drugs or prescription drugs, or have a Schedule I controlled substance or its metabolites in your blood or urine. Examples of Schedule I controlled substances include heroin and LSD, and other substances that have a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use in the U.S., or a lack of accepted safety for use in medical treatment.

A charge of DWI is a serious criminal offense that carries harsh fines and penalties. If you are ever charged with DWI, the first thing you should do is hire a competent lawyer who has significant trial experience handling DWI matters. A DWI conviction can have serious and long-term personal and financial consequences.

Penalties for DWI in North Carolina vary depending on the circumstances of your case and other factors. After a DWI conviction, the judge holds a sentencing hearing to determine whether there are aggravating or mitigating factors that affect the punishment to be imposed. If you have more than one DWI conviction, or if the offense involves specific aggravating factors, such as having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15% or more, driving while your license is revoked, or reckless driving, the penalties and fines you face increase significantly. For persons with multiple prior DWI convictions, a DWI charge may rise to the level of a felony.

For first-time DWI offenders with no aggravating factors, the conviction is likely to result in a Level 5 misdemeanor punishment which typically carries the following penalties:

  • Mandatory one-year suspension of your driver’s license
  • Payment of court costs and a maximum fine of $200
  • Minimum of 24 hours in jail or community service

Other consequences of a DWI conviction may include:

  • Significant increase in your auto insurance premiums
  • A criminal record
  • Social stigma, e.g. personal or professional embarrassment
  • Impact on your career, including loss of employment or being ineligible for certain employment opportunities
  • Required substance abuse counseling and treatment
  • Extended community service
  • Increased fines of up to $10,000
  • Restitution for damages to property or persons
  • Permanent revocation of your driver’s license
  • Installation of an interlock device on your vehicle and alcohol/drug monitoring
    Extended jail time or a prison sentence
Roger Smith Jr. is named DWI Defense Lawyer of the Year by Best Lawyers in America 2020 Edition
Roger W. Smith, Jr. is named the 2020 DUI/DWI Defense Lawyer of the Year in Raleigh by Best Lawyers in America

Not every DWI charge will result in a conviction; however, a DWI charge can be difficult to refute, especially if there is a reliable chemical analysis result and other evidence to support the charge.

The criminal defense lawyers at Tharrington Smith have the requisite experience to examine critical factors in your case such as probable cause, the aspects of the traffic stop and the arrest, any procedural or technical errors on the part of law enforcement, and any other relevant factors that may impact the standard of proof for a DWI conviction. In some situations, there may be factors that would support a dismissal of the DWI charge, or reduce the likelihood of a conviction.

Depending on the circumstances of your case, our DWI lawyers may also be able to:

  • Lessen your fines and penalties;
  • Help you secure a limited driving privilege; and
  • Possibly have any related charges reduced or dismissed.

Tharrington Smith’s criminal defense lawyers are dedicated to protecting the rights of our clients. We understand the devastating impact that a DWI conviction may have on your life, and we fervently advocate on your behalf to minimize the legal and financial implications. If you have been charged with a DWI or any other criminal related offenses, the criminal law attorneys at Tharrington Smith are available to put our skills and experience to work for you.

Raleigh Criminal Defense Attorneys


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