What is a DUI or DWI?

A DUI (“driving under the influence”) and a DWI (“driving while intoxicated”) are different terms to describe the same basic law prohibiting drunk driving. DWI is described under North Carolina state law, section 20 138.1 (a), which states that:

“A person commits the offense of impaired driving if he drives any vehicle upon any highway, any street, or any public vehicular area within this State:

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What signs do police officers look for to spot a drunk driver on the road?

The police don’t look for any one specific sign to tell them that a driver on the road is impaired. Rather, they turn to a list of symptoms, compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), including:

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If I am stopped by a police officer, what tests will I have to perform?

If a police officer suspects that you are intoxicated, he may ask you to get out of the car and perform a Field Sobriety Test (FST) or a chemical test (breathalyzer, Intoxilyzer, blood, or urine test). A battery of FSTs may be employed, but the three most readily recognized by the courts are:

If you have any physical limitations (age, health conditions, etc) that have an effect on your balance or cause difficulty in walking—leading to a false positive and an arrest—it is important that you tell the police officer before you take any FSTs.

I don’t feel comfortable leaving my car for anyone late at night, even a police officer. Can I refuse a Field Sobriety Test?

Under North Carolina state law, you are not obligated to submit to an FST. In fact, by the time an officer decides to have you conduct a field test, he has probably already made up his mind to arrest you. FSTs are unreliable and highly subjective, and may only serve to reinforce your officer’s bias in a way that can be used in court. If you are stopped under suspicion of a DWI in Raleigh, you are free to refuse.

Can I refuse to take a chemical test?

You cannot be forced to submit to a chemical test. However, unlike an FST, there are consequences for not cooperating. If you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer or blood test, two things may happen:

In this case, you must weigh the potential of a poor chemical test result against the definite consequences of your refusal to submit.

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What are the penalties for a DUI / DWI?

The penalties for a DWI can vary quite a bit, depending on the circumstances of each individual case. The courts may go easier on a first-time offender, especially if no one was injured as a result of your intoxication. On the other hand, multiple DWI convictions can lead to a “habitual offender” label and felony charges.

There are also unofficial penalties that can be just as severe. Depending on your profession, a DWI conviction can make it more difficult to find work. A conviction can also lead to insurance rate hikes of up to 400%.

I took a Breathalyzer test and blew above a 0.08% BAC, and had my license taken away. How do I get my license back?

According to North Carolina state law, law enforcement has the right to revoke the license of anyone arrested for a DWI with a 0.08% or higher BAC. That revocation stands for 30 days, although a skilled DUI attorney may be able to have that time period shortened to as little as 10 days.

Once your 30 days are up, you can recover your license at the county court house after paying a $50 restoration fee. If you are found guilty of DWI charges, or if you refused to submit to a police officer’s request for a chemical test, your license may be held for a significantly longer period of time.

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I drive a commercial vehicle for work. What happens to my commercial license if I am convicted of a DUI / DWI?

Penalties for a DWI are much more severe for commercial drivers, since they also have a responsibility to their companies while on the road. If you are driving a commercial vehicle, it only takes a BAC of 0.04% to be arrested for a DWI. If you are convicted, your commercial license may be revoked and you could lose your job.

My license was suspended after my DWI arrest, but I need my car get to work. Can I drive on a suspended license if I am careful?

Driving with a suspended license is a very serious charge that too many people take lightly. To attempt driving on legal terms, you may request a hearing with the DMV within 10 days of your arrest—depending on your circumstances, your DUI attorney may be able to have your license restored. Similarly, if you meet special circumstances after your conviction, you may qualify for a “limited driving privilege,” allowing you to get to and from work.

In the meantime, it is essential that you make other arrangements. You never know when you could be stopped again for a minor traffic infraction. If you are found to be driving on a suspended license, you could face additional charges and mandatory jail time. To put it simply, it isn’t worth the risk.

Why should I hire an attorney?

The law can be dense and complex, and most people are not expected to know more than the basics. A lawyer, on the other hand, makes it his or her job to know these laws inside and out. While you may have the drive to fight for yourself, your Raleigh DUI attorney will know HOW to fight in the most effective manner, making the most of witnesses, evidence, and the best defenses to turn the court in your favor. Skilled lawyers will be representing the state on the prosecution side; to make it a fair fight, you need equally skilled legal representation in your corner.

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