While facing a serious DWI charge, people usually react in one of two ways. Even though they know they have rights, some panic and think they are going to jail no matter what. Still others misunderstand the nature of DUI and think of it as just another traffic charge. So first let’s talk about DWI and what it really means in your situation.
Serious DWI Charge – Misdemeanor or Felony
So just how serious is a DWI arrest? First, it depends on a number of factors. Because each case is different, we have to evaluate every case on its own facts. However, even a first offense with no complications results in a permanent criminal record and affect you for years. Rather, under current law, any conviction for DWI in North Carolina cannot be expunged. And as we add factors, a DUI becomes a more serious DWI charge. Consequently, you can be looking at jail or even prison time. Fortunately, those cases are rare. Instead, most people face loss of driving privileges, community service, and payment of court costs and fines.
Jail or Prison Time
Fortunately, most DUI convictions do not result in time behind bars. Rather, only a truly serious DWI charge results in a jail sentence. For example, if you seriously injure or kill someone while impaired, then obviously you will go to prison. And you should. However, you face a year in jail for even a minor DUI if you have someone under 18 with you. While some punishment levels have mandatory jail time, compassionate judges can use discretion in certain situations. Consequently, we advise clients with addiction issues to get private counseling or rehabilitation treatment. In addition, we enroll them into SCRAM to show the court they are working hard to get better. From my experience, judges often respond well if they feel the person is sincere. So don’t give up without a fight.
Permanent Criminal Record
If convicted of even a first-time DUI, you will have a permanent criminal record. That’s right. Under current law, you can never expunge a misdemeanor DWI. So why is DUI different? Because the legislature believes we want tough DUI laws. However, as a Charlotte DWI attorney, I think North Carolina laws have gone too far and have unintended consequences. After all, everyone makes mistakes, but the punishment should not last forever.
As you would expect, a DUI conviction will cause your insurance rates to increase, sometimes quite dramatically. Furthermore, some insurance companies will not insure persons with a prior DWI record. As a result, it is even more important to fight a DUI. Because of the associated costs, every arrest is a serious DWI charge.
Loss of License | Limited Driving Privilege
Because we live in a mobile society, people have to be able to drive to get around. Hence, we drive to go to work, school, or pick up children. Nevertheless, if convicted of even a simple DUI, you lose your license for one year. However, a limited driving privilege is available with certain restrictions. Always remember this is not a “drive whenever” license. Rather, there are significant restrictions on when you can use your car. In addition, if you “blow” 0.15 or greater, you must wait 45 days before getting a LDP. And finally, if you refused breath testing, there is a six month hold after conviction or plea.
While most people volunteer on their own to help others, community service is required as part of a DUI. Depending on your punishment level, you must complete between 24 and 72 hours. However, you get to choose which charitable organization to help. Because they are the largest, most clients do their service at Habitat for Humanity. Seems like a good group, and it is easy to schedule for hours.
Ignition Interlock Device
In addition to the above, many folks worry that they will have to have a “blow to go” device. While some DUI convictions result in ignition interlock, most do not. Rather, it is only if you refuse breath testing or have a BAC of 0.15 or higher. But even if mandated, prices have come down, and there is no drilling needed to install. And finally, because of the need, rental car companies now offer IID for an extra fee. So don’t feel self-conscious.