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What Is DWI Per Se?

The phrase DWI per se may come up in a drunk or drugged driving accident case in North Carolina. Per se means “by or in itself.” Something that is illegal per se means that because the defendant broke a law, this in and of itself is enough to prove the defendant is guilty of the crime. In a driving while intoxicated (DWI) per se case in North Carolina, the police base a DWI charge on the fact that the driver failed the chemical test, not whether the driver could safely operate the vehicle. Here’s what to know if you’re facing a DWI per se charge. If you have any further questions, reach out to a knowledgeable Raleigh DWI lawyer.

North Carolina DWI Laws

In North Carolina, it is illegal to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher. It is also against the law to drive under the influence of impairing drugs – prescription and nonprescription. Doing either of these things can result in a driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge. This is a serious offense that could land the offender with thousands of dollars in fines and/or jail time.

The most common way police officers determine if a driver is driving while intoxicated is with a BAC test. Every driver, upon receiving a driver’s license, agrees to submit to breath and chemical DWI tests. These tests use the breath, blood, or urine to determine the amount of alcohol or the presence of drugs in the driver’s system. A BAC of 0.08% is legally the level at which someone is too intoxicated to drive (0.04% for commercial drivers and prior DWI offenders). In North Carolina, drivers younger than 21 can receive DWI charges with any BAC.

Once the officer places a driver under arrest for suspected DWI, it is up to the driver to navigate the court process. If the prosecution decides to press charges, it will have to prove that the driver was guilty of driving while intoxicated. Sometimes, the prosecution will try to win the case based on the rules of DWI per se. In these cases, the prosecution will argue that since the driver’s BAC was at or above 0.08%, the driver is guilty of DWI, with no further evidence of intoxication necessary.

How to Defend Against DWI Per Se

DWI per se can feel unfair to many drivers who feel fine to drive at 0.08% BAC. Since officers can charge drivers for DWI with a lesser BAC level based on their driving abilities, it seems only fair that the opposite should also be true. Yet this is not the way of the law. In general, a BAC at or above 0.08% will be enough to incriminate the driver and lead to a DWI conviction in North Carolina. In certain situations, however, you can fight against a DWI per se argument.

Despite the white-and-black nature of DWI per se laws, it is possible to escape a conviction with a BAC of 0.08% or above. The same DWI defenses apply to per se cases as they do to other cases. Defendants can argue that the breath or chemical test is invalid, due to improper testing methods or lost evidence. Other potential defenses include necessity, duress, entrapment, involuntary intoxication, and improper stop.

Get help for a DWI case. If you hear the phrase DWI per se thrown around by the arresting officer or prosecutors, you could be up against strict laws. Hire a skilled Raleigh criminal defense attorney to help you fight against a per se charge. A lawyer can connect you to the information and resources you need to feel confident in your defense strategy, even if the other side has hard evidence that you were driving while intoxicated. The sooner you talk to an attorney, the sooner you can fight a DWI per se charge in North Carolina.