A felony driving while impaired (DWI) is the most serious of all DWI charges in North Carolina. A DWI can be a felony charge in North Carolina if a person drives while impaired and has been convicted of three or more DWI offenses within 10 years of the date of the current offense. A driver convicted of Habitual DWI is punished as a Class F felon and must be sentenced to a minimum active term of 12 months imprisonment, which cannot be suspended. A person convicted of Habitual DWI will have his licensed permanently revoked.
Penalties for Felony DWI in North Carolina
In North Carolina, a felony DWI carries much harsher consequences than a misdemeanor charge. A felony DWI is punishable with a minimum of one year in prison, extremely high fines, license suspension or permanent revocation, mandatory alcohol or substance abuse counseling programs, and a conviction that could remain on your driving record for life. The courts do not allow a judge to suspend the minimum sentence for a felony DWI.
In NC, the law requires the court to take away a repeat or felony DWI offender’s vehicle. This statute states that a law enforcement official can seize a driver’s car if the driver faces a DWI charge while driving on revoked/suspended license from a prior DWI charge. Vehicle seizure takes place at the time of arrest, not after the trial. After the trial and a guilty conviction, the courts will order law enforcement to forfeit the vehicle. In North Carolina, the county school board keeps the proceeds after selling the vehicle, or it can keep the vehicle for its own purposes. The owner can only get the vehicle back if he or she was not the driver convicted of DWI and only after the courts are satisfied that the owner was an innocent party.
North Carolina abides by a zero tolerance policy when it comes to underage drivers. A driver under the legal drinking age of 21 cannot have any alcohol nor any traces of drugs in his/her system. If he or she does, the accused faces a 30-day pre-trial license revocation. If an underage driver refuses to take the blood or urine tests, an officer can charge the driver if the officer smells alcohol on the driver’s breath. A judge can revoke the license of an offender for one year, giving back limited driving privileges if the driver was at least 18 years old at the time of conviction with no prior DWIs.
The maximum BAC for a commercial truck driver is 0.04. If a commercial driver is guilty of DWI in North Carolina, this offense is punishable with a 10-day disqualification to operate a commercial vehicle. This can easily result in the loss of the truck driver’s contract with a trucking company. Subsequent offenses are punishable by license revocation (for any vehicle).
Potential Defenses for a Felony DWI
The best chance you have at protecting your rights when facing a felony DWI charge is to hire a defense attorney. Representing yourself is not a wise choice against such a serious offense. The NC courts are strict when it comes to DWIs, and even more tough on repeat offenders. A felony DWI lawyer may be able to prepare a defense for your case, depending on certain circumstances. For example:
- The officer failed to read your Miranda rights.
- The officer didn’t have reasonable suspicion to pull you over.
- The officer didn’t have probable cause to place you under arrest.
- The officer wasn’t authorized to administer a breathalyzer test.
- The officer’s evidence is based on a non-standard DWI tests.
- You have a medical condition that mimics impairment.
- The breathalyzer malfunctioned.
Depending on the circumstances, an attorney may be able to show that the prosecution’s evidence against you – namely, the results of a breathalyzer or other field test – are inadmissible in court. This means the court will not allow the prosecution to present the evidence because the officer obtained it in an unlawful or inaccurate way. A strong defense is your best shot at avoiding a felony conviction. Even if a defense isn’t possible in your case, a skilled criminal attorney can walk you through the trial process and help prepare you for the penalties.
Trust Scharff Law Firm for Felony DWI Defense
People with a felony conviction on their permanent records can have difficulty getting their lives back on track. They may lose their jobs and have trouble finding gainful employment. Felons can also run into problems when trying to buy a home or a firearm. If an officer charges you with a felony DWI in Raleigh, contact Scharff Law Firm right away. The sooner you have an attorney by your side, the better. A felony DWI defense attorney can try to have the courts dismiss your case or at least help prepare you for penalties. We’ll also discuss your options for record expungement or the removal of the felony from your permanent record in the future. Call (919) 457-1954 for a free case consultation.