In North Carolina, a DWI/ DUI crash can have far-reaching implications extending beyond just legal penalties. From potential jail time to skyrocketing insurance rates, the aftermath of a DWI/ DUI-related accident can be life-altering. But what consequences could you face if involved in a DWI/ DUI crash in North Carolina? Let’s see how this type of accident can impact your life.
What is Driving While Impaired (DWI) in North Carolina?
While many states still pass out DUI (Driving Under the Influence) tickets, North Carolina has one charge for all types of driving while impaired.
DWI covers driving while impaired by:
- Prescription Medication
- Illegal Drugs
- Legal OTC Meds
- Other Intoxicating Substances
Criminal Consequences of DWI/ DUI-Related Auto Accidents in North Carolina
Understanding the criminal consequences of a DWI/ DUI-related accident in North Carolina is crucial. So here’s a breakdown of what you could face, along with real-life examples:
Arrest and Booking Process
If you’re involved in an auto accident as an impaired or drunk driver, you can face arrest and booking for the offense.
For example, Sarah has a couple of drinks at a party and rear-ends another car when heading home. The police arrive, administer a breath test, and arrest her after the test shows an alcohol concentration of 0.09. She faces arrest and potentially a night in the police station. (1)
Court Appearances and Potential Charges
After arrest, you must appear in court, where, if convicted, the judge will impose punishment based on North Carolina’s DWI laws.
For example, Mike collides with another car while speeding after a few beers. He appears in court, facing charges of impaired driving and potentially other offenses like reckless driving.
Penalties Such as Fines, Jail Time, and Community Service
Penalties for impaired driving can range from fines to jail time and community service. The offense is usually a misdemeanor and can lead to a sentencing hearing.
For example, Emily takes prescription medication for anxiety and has a glass of wine before getting into a minor accident. Because prescription medicines can cause impaired driving, she can still be convicted of DWI/ DUI crash.
In court, she receives a fine and a jail sentence of seven days. She also must complete 90 days of community service.
Causing a Severe Injury While Drinking or on Drugs and Driving
If you accidentally inflict severe harm on another person while driving impaired, you can face much worse consequences in a car crash. If your impaired state is a primary factor leading to the harm, you can face a felony conviction.
You could face Class F felony charges with repercussions including:
- Revocation of your driving privileges
- Prison term of up to 59 months
For you to receive a conviction for felony injury DWI, the court will need to prove:
- Accidental Infliction of Severe Harm: While you didn’t intend to injure anyone, your actions resulted in severe harm. According to North Carolina law, ‘severe harm’ refers to an injury that causes considerable pain and distress, blood loss, hospital visits, and missed workdays due to the injury.
- Impaired Operation of a Vehicle: You were driving while affected by alcohol or drugs.
- Direct Link Between Impairment and Injury: The prosecution must demonstrate that your impaired condition was a major factor in causing severe harm to the other person. Your actions must be a substantial factor in the injury.
Understanding these criminal consequences can help you grasp the severity of DWI laws in North Carolina, especially when involved in an auto accident. Working with an experienced North Carolina DWI attorney can make all the difference when your blood alcohol level contributes to a scene of injury and distress.
Administrative Consequences of DWI/ DUI-Related Auto Accidents in North Carolina
Understanding the administrative consequences of a DWI/ DUI crash in North Carolina can help you prepare for what comes next. Here’s a breakdown of what you might face and real-life examples to illustrate each point.
License Suspension or Revocation
Your driver’s license may be suspended or revoked upon an impaired driving conviction.
For example, after causing a minor accident, Sarah fails a BAC test and receives a conviction for impaired driving. As a result, the DMV suspends her license for a year. She may or may not qualify for a limited driving privilege.
Working with a knowledgeable defense attorney can increase her chances of being able to drive to her job. Otherwise, she could lose her job and face even more struggles.
Points on Driving Record
A conviction for impaired driving can add points to your driving record, affecting your insurance premiums and potentially leading to further license suspension.
For example, Mike receives a conviction for reckless and impaired driving. He also receives points on his driving record, causing his insurance rates to increase. His points go so high that he cannot qualify for insurance from the usual companies and does not drive anymore. The rates are just too high for him to pay.
Requirement for DWI/ DUI Education Programs
After a DWI/ DUI conviction, you will likely complete a substance abuse assessment and any recommended training or treatment programs.
For example, Emily receives a conviction for driving while taking her anxiety meds and drinking alcohol. Her chemical testing at the police station shows a large amount of her prescription medication, also considered a controlled substance. The court determines that the combination of meds and alcohol led to her loss of control while driving. The court decides she must complete a DWI/ DUI education program to get a reinstatement of her license.
Knowing these administrative consequences can help you understand what a DWI/ DUI-related auto accident can mean for you in North Carolina. Working with a legal team who understands the defenses available to you can mean the difference between driving again or losing your license.
Financial Consequences of DUI-Related Auto Accidents in North Carolina
Understanding the financial consequences of a DWI/ DUI-related auto accident in North Carolina is crucial. So here’s what you might face, backed by North Carolina’s motor vehicle laws:
Legal Fees and Court Costs
If convicted of impaired driving, you’ll be subject to various legal fees and court costs, and in certain circumstances if you have a prior conviction for DWI, the possibility of your vehicle forfeiture.
Sarah faces a fine, the costs of hiring a lawyer, court fees, and the loss of her car, adding up to a substantial financial burden.
Loss of Employment
A conviction for impaired driving can lead to license suspension or revocation, affecting your ability to commute and potentially leading to job loss.
Emily, who relies on driving to get to work, loses her job because the DMV suspends her license after a DWI/ DUI conviction, causing her to miss work.
Another example is Samantha, an attorney, who receives a DWI/ DUI after a couple of drinks and a minor crash. After her conviction, she loses her professional license to practice law.
Social and Personal Consequences of DUI-Related Auto Accidents in North Carolina
The social and personal consequences of a DWI/ DUI are undeniably significant. They can have a long-lasting impact on your life. Here’s a look at some effects you can face if involved in a DWI/ DUI-related auto accident.
Impact on Family and Social Relationships
The strain a DWI/ DUI conviction can put on family and social relationships is considerable.
After Sarah’s DWI/ DUI conviction, her family resents the burden of having to transport Sarah everywhere since she can’t legally drive herself.
Stigma and Impact on Future Opportunities
The stigma attached to a DWI/ DUI conviction can affect future opportunities, including employment and housing.
Mike finds it difficult to secure a new job after his DWI/ DUI conviction shows up on background checks. He also faces challenges in renting an apartment, as some landlords hesitate to lease to someone with a criminal record.
Because DWI/ DUI is a “violent” criminal offense, it is not a crime that the courts will expunge from your record. It’s a lifelong criminal conviction others can see.
Understanding these social and personal consequences can help you grasp the full scope of what a DWI/ DUI-related auto accident can mean for you in North Carolina.
Civil Liability of DWI/ DUI-Related Auto Accidents in North Carolina
Understanding the civil liability associated with DUI-related auto accidents in North Carolina is crucial. Here’s a breakdown of what you could face:
Potential for Lawsuits from Victims
If you’re involved in an auto accident while driving impaired, you could face lawsuits from victims for damages and injuries. Getting sued is a common legal consequence.
Sarah, who caused a minor accident while driving impaired, faces medical bills for her own neck injuries. In addition, the other driver suffers a back injury and decides to sue Sarah for medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional distress.
Financial Burden of Civil Penalties
Your vehicle may be subject to impoundment and forfeiture on the spot if you’re charged with an offense involving impaired driving, adding to the financial burden.
For example, Mike faces criminal charges, but his car also gets impounded because he has a 2nd DWI pending, adding to his financial woes.
Being aware of these civil liabilities can help you understand the need for qualified legal help to build your defense when facing DWI/ DUI charges.
How Do DWI/ DUI Crash Investigators Determine Fault When Impaired Driving is Involved in a Crash?
Understanding how insurance adjusters and potentially hired investigators determine fault in DWI/ DUI-related auto accidents can help you prepare. Here’s a breakdown of North Carolina’s motor vehicle laws and real-life examples.
Legal Guidance on Investigation
Law enforcement agencies are responsible for investigating reportable accidents. They must make a written report within 24 hours of the accident. This report contains information on financial responsibility for the vehicle driven by the person identified as at fault.
For example, after Sarah rear-ends another car, the police investigate. They make a written report that identifies Sarah as at fault. This report then goes to the insurance companies involved.
The driver involved in a reportable accident must furnish proof of financial responsibility when requested by the Division of Motor Vehicles.
Mike collides with another car while speeding more than 15 over the limit. The insurance adjuster asks for proof of financial responsibility, which Mike provides. The insurance adjuster uses Mike’s coverages to determine the extent of his coverage for the financial fallout of his wreck.
Appraisal and Umpire
If there’s a disagreement about the amount of loss, both parties can select a competent and disinterested appraiser. If the appraisers disagree, an umpire may determine the loss amount.
After Tony’s truck collides with another vehicle, there’s a dispute about the damages. Both insurance companies appoint appraisers, who then select an umpire to resolve the disagreement.
An Experienced DWI/ DUI Defense Attorney Can Help
Facing the complexities of a DWI/DUI-related auto accident in North Carolina can feel like an insurmountable challenge. That’s where Scharff Law comes in. With our deep understanding of North Carolina DWI laws, we can help you navigate the maze of criminal, administrative, and civil consequences you face.
We’ll guide you through the arrest and booking process, stand by your side in court, and clarify any potential charges and penalties you face. Our knowledgeable attorneys understand the defenses that may work best in your unique circumstances, and we can help you qualify for limited driving privileges, an interlock device, or education programs.
Our ultimate goal is to work with the DA’s office and the court system to either eliminate or substantially reduce the various consequences you could face for impaired driving. We provide you with the best opportunity for a favorable outcome.
With the support and expertise of Scharff Law, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle this challenging time and move forward with your life.