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NC DWI Sentencing Guidelines – What You Should Know

Have you been arrested for a DWI in North Carolina? If so, the experience can be frightening and stressful, but while you are waiting for the next steps in the North Carolina criminal process, it can be helpful to look at the NC DWI sentencing guidelines.

NC DWI Sentencing Guidelines | Dewey Brinkley DWI Attorney in Raleigh

There is a wide range of potential punishments that you can face if you are convicted of a DWI. At the low end, you may be looking at fines and community service. At the other end, you could be looking at serious time in jail or prison. No matter the severity of your DWI offense, you absolutely need an experienced and skilled Raleigh DWI lawyer like Dewey Brinkley. We’ve helped many individuals just like yourself with their DWI charges, achieving not guilty results, dropped charges, and reduced or alternative charges.

For a free, no-obligation consultation with our Raleigh DWI law firm, call us today at (919) 832-0307.

DWI Sentencing Factors

The North Carolina General Statutes (N.C.G.S.) § 20-179 provide the basic outline for DWI penalties and sentencing. Following a conviction of a DWI, the judge will schedule a sentencing hearing to determine the appropriate sentencing level. Often, the judge will consider several mitigating or aggravating factors in his/her decision.

Grossly Aggravating Factors

Grossly aggravating factors are the most severe, and if you have grossly aggravating factors in your case, then you may be looking at the harshest penalties in North Carolina courts. The following factors are considered grossly aggravating:

  • Prior conviction of an impaired driving offense within 7 years of the current one
    • Each prior conviction can be considered an aggravating factor
  • The driver was driving on a license that was revoked for impaired driving
  • The driver caused serious bodily injury
  • The driver had a minor in the vehicle (under 18 years old) or a person with a mental or physical disability

Aggravating Factors

Aggravating factors are less serious than the “grossly aggravating” factors, but nonetheless, aggravating factors in your case can dramatically increase the severity of the penalties you may be facing. Some aggravating factors can include:

  • Gross impairment with a BAC of 0.15 of higher
  • Especially reckless or dangerous driving
  • Negligent driving that led to a reportable accident
  • Driving with a revoked license
  • Two or more convictions of non-DWI-related offenses within 5 years
  • A conviction for speeding while fleeing or eluding a police officer
  • A conviction for speeding at least 30 mph over the speed limit
  • Passing a stopped school bus
  • Any other factor that aggravates the seriousness of the offense

Mitigating Factors

Unlike aggravating factors, having mitigating factors in your case can, in the majority of cases, serve as a benefit that reduces the potential DWI sentence you may be facing. Some mitigating factors can include:

  • Slight impairment of the driver’s faculties and a BAC that didn’t exceed 0.09
  • The driver’s driving behavior was safe and lawful (except for the impairment of faculties)
  • The driver had a safe driving record
  • Impairment was caused by a legally prescribed drug for an existing medical condition, and the drug was taken within its prescribed dosage
  • After the conviction, the driver voluntarily submitted to a mental health facility and recommended treatments

Different Sentencing Levels for DWIs

Through these factors, as well as a consideration of the unique circumstances related to the DWI stop and arrest, the courts may assign a certain level signifying the severity of your punishment.

All of the DWI sentences, aside from a felonious Habitual DWI offense, fall within five sentencing levels. Level One and Two are generally imposed if you have prior convictions within seven years or other grossly aggravating factors; Level 5, on the other side of the spectrum, often involves a first offense and mitigating factors. The five levels and their punishments are listed below:

  • Level Five: This is the lightest sentencing level often imposed when the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating factors.
    • Fine of up to $200; minimum of 24 hours and maximum of 120 days in jail
  • Level Four: Generally, no aggravating or mitigating factors were present or both were equally counterbalanced.
    • Fine of up to $200; minimum of 48 hours and maximum of 120 days in jail
  • Level Three: The aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factors, but there were no grossly aggravating factors present.
    • Fine of up to $1,000; minimum of 72 hours and maximum of 6 months in jail
  • Level Two: There were no minors under 18 in the vehicle and only one grossly aggravating factor was present.
    • Fine of up to $2,000; minimum of 7 days and maximum of 12 months in jail
  • Level One: The driver was accompanied by a minor under 18 or there were two grossly aggravating factors involved.
    • Fine of up to $4,000; minimum of 30 days and maximum of 24 months in jail
  • Aggravated Level One: There were three or more grossly aggravating factors present.
    • Fine of up to $10,000; minimum of 12 months and maximum of 36 months in jail, with no possibility of parole

Arrested for a DWI? Call Dewey Brinkley in Raleigh NC Today!

At the Law Office of Dewey P. Brinkley in Raleigh, NC, we’ve helped hundreds of individuals caught in a similar situation as yourself or your loved one. As such, with years of devotion to criminal defense and DWI defense law and legal representation, we will give you comprehensive and compassionate representation with the goal of achieving a not-guilty result, dropped charges, or alternative/reduced sentencing.

To speak with Raleigh NC DWI attorney Dewey Brinkley, call our downtown Raleigh criminal defense law firm today at (919) 832-0307.

Basics About DWI Chemical Tests

When arrested for a DWI offense in North Carolina, one of the most important pieces of evidence is the results of the chemical tests. According to North Carolina law § 20-139.1, chemical tests are admissible as evidence and also deemed as sufficient evidence to prove a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The chemical tests are usually given after a field sobriety test during a traffic stop, and they are generally considered reliable.

 

However, as DWI defense attorneys in Raleigh, NC, we at the Law Office of Dewey P. Brinkley know that DWI chemical tests aren’t always perfect. If you need one of the leading defense attorneys with years of experience representing people just like you, call criminal defense attorney Brinkley today at (919) 832-0307.

North Carolina Implied Consent Laws

Under North Carolina law § 20-16.2, the “implied consent” law, if a police officer has probable cause to believe that you’ve been drinking, then you already consent to a blood or breath test to determine your BAC. You can be asked to comply with a chemical test before arrest as well, such as at a DWI checkpoint, if you were in an accident, or if you were caught breaking a traffic law, and the officer believes you were drinking.

The actual text of the law reads: “Any person who drives a vehicle on a highway or public vehicular area thereby gives consent to a chemical analysis if charged with an implied-consent offense. Any law enforcement officer who has reasonable grounds to believe that the person charged has committed the implied-consent offense may obtain a chemical analysis of the person.”

Refusing to Take a Blood, Breath, or Urine Test in North Carolina

After the arrest, the police officer should inform you, in writing, that refusing a chemical test can result in the automatic suspension of your driver’s license for a year. If it’s your first chemical test refusal, you could get limited driving privileges after serving 6 months of the suspension.

It’s important to keep in mind that refusing a chemical test isn’t a “get out of jail free” card. Refusing the test won’t keep you from getting convicted for DWI. On the contrary, the prosecution may argue that you refused the chemical test because you knew you were legally intoxicated.

Chemical Test Process in North Carolina

Usually, the chemical test will come after the field sobriety test, or if the police officer has strong reason to believe that you’re intoxicated. The three types of chemical tests  include:

  • Breath tests – Breath tests are most commonly measured with the portable breathalyzer. This indirectly measures BAC by testing for alcohol on the subject’s breath, and then a formula is used to determine the amount of alcohol concentration in the subject’s blood.
  • Blood tests – A sample of blood is analyzed to determine BAC. Alcohol is quickly absorbed into the blood, and so a blood test is a quick and easy way to determine BAC.
  • Urine tests – Urine tests are also another method for determining BAC or drugs in the system. This test is also indirect, as it uses the amount of alcohol in the urine to determine overall blood alcohol concentration.

Field Sobriety Test and Symptoms of Being Drunk

Before getting a chemical test, police officers may ask you to take a field sobriety test or they will, at the least, look for signs of drunkenness, such as slurred speech, red watery eyes, and the odor of alcohol.

Generally, the field sobriety test occurs at the scene of the traffic stop. The field sobriety test will often include the following physical and mental tests:

  • Nystagmus Test – Checking the eyes for lateral or horizontal jerking
  • Reciting the alphabet forwards and backwards
  • Standing and listening to directions, walking in a straight line, turning around, and walking back to the officer
  • Standing with feet together, head back, and touching your nose with the tip of your finger, as directed by the police officer

Call Raleigh DWI Attorney Dewey Brinkley to Fight Your Charges

If you’ve been arrested for a DWI, you may be asked to take a field sobriety test or a chemical test. The results of these tests are heavily considered in courts, but these tests aren’t perfect. To get one of the leading criminal defense attorneys in the Raleigh NC area, call the Law Office of Dewey Brinkley today. Free consultations are available, so don’t hesitate and call today at (919) 832-0307.

Don’t Spend The New Years In Jail – How To Avoid Getting A DWI

Raleigh DWI Attorney Dewey Brinkley

Don’t Spend the New Years in Jail – How to Avoid Getting a DWI

New Years is one of the biggest party nights of the year, packed full of good cheer, friends and family, good food, and, of course, alcohol. While New Years is a night for memories, the risks for a DWI are also highly escalated. Drunk-driving fatalities often occur around the holidays, including New Years, and every year, Raleigh and Wake County law enforcement are intensely trying to reduce alcohol-related road fatalities by being extra diligent towards suspected drunk drivers.

Instead of spending your New Years in jail, you need to take the extra steps to avoid getting a DWI on New Year’s Eve. The most important (and the easiest) way is to not drive after you’ve drunk alcohol. However, if you were arrested for DWI on New Year’s Eve, make sure to call Raleigh DWI attorney Dewey P. Brinkley as soon as possible. We offer free consultations, and we’ll get started on your case as soon as we hear from you.

Call Dewey P. Brinkley for your Raleigh DWI attorney at (919) 832-0307.

Penalties for DWI in North Carolina

There are no happy holiday endings for drunk drivers, and North Carolina law enforcement, courts, and prosecutors will heavily prosecute individuals charged with drunk driving.

If you’re under 21 years old, the penalties for underage drunk driving (if your BAC is under 0.08) may include court fees, fines, jail time, and license suspensions. If your BAC is above 0.08, you may be looking at any of the following penalties:

Level 5 DWI:

  • Immediate license suspension for 30 days
  • Up to a $200 fine
  • Between 24 hours and 60 days in jail
  • Substance abuse assessments

Level 4 DWI:

  • Immediate license suspension for 30 days
  • Up to a $500 fine
  • Between 48 hours and 120 days in jail
  • Substance abuse assessments

Level 3 DWI:

  • Immediate license suspension for 30 days
  • Up to a $1,000 fine
  • Between 72 hours and 6 months in jail
  • Substance abuse assessments

Level 2 DWI:

  • Immediate license suspension for 30 days
  • Up to a $2,000 fine
  • Between 7 days and 12 months in jail
  • Substance abuse assessments

Level 1 DWI:

  • Immediate license suspension for 30 days
  • Up to a $4,000 fine
  • Between 30 days and 24 months in jail
  • Substance abuse assessments

Aggravated Level 1 DWI:

  • Immediate license suspension for 30 days
  • Up to $10,000 fine
  • Between 12 months and 36 months in jail
  • Continued alcohol monitoring
  • Substance abuse assessments

Prior convictions or aggravating factors can dramatically increase the penalties for a DWI. Some aggravating factors may include:

  • Being grossly impaired or having a BAC of 0.15 or more
  • Reckless or dangerous driving
  • Negligent driving that led to an accident
  • Driving with a revoked license

Plan a Sober Ride Home

The penalties for drunk driving on New Year’s Eve are certainly harsh, and due to the increased dangers this night, police and prosecutors might not hesitate to deliver the most severe penalties possible. As such, with the prospect of jail and substantial penalties, and the possibility of gravely injuring other people, the best way to avoid a DWI on New Years is to not drive drunk. Plan a sober ride home instead. Contact a taxi, rideshare, or try to organize with a sober driver.

Contact Raleigh DWI Attorney Dewey Brinkley

If you are arrested for a DWI on New Years, don’t panic and call the Law Office of Dewey P. Brinkley in Raleigh NC as soon as possible. With decades of experience representing and defending individuals charged with drunk driving related offenses, DWI attorney Brinkley will thoroughly guide you through the legal process while aggressively defending your case at every stage. For a free, no-obligation consultation with our Raleigh DWI defense law firm, call us today at (919) 832-0307.

New Felony Goes Into Effect Dec 1 – Boating While Impaired

Beginning on December 1st, there’s a new felony in North Carolina that you should be aware of: boating while impaired. This law, and the increased penalties associated with it, are due to a crackdown on drunk boating. As such, starting on December 1st, you can be convicted of a felony if you were impaired, driving a boat, and you caused serious injury or death.

Boating While Impaired Defense Attorney | Dewey P. Brinkley Law

At the Law Office of Dewey P. Brinkley, we have defended many individuals charged with DUI and other alcohol-related offenses. We understand the difficulty and anxiety associated with these charges. As one of the leading criminal defense attorneys in Raleigh, we will give your case a comprehensive, strong defense. To speak with attorney Brinkley regarding your case, call our Raleigh office today at (919) 832-0307.

The Boating While Impaired Law in North Carolina

Boating while impaired is not a new law in North Carolina. In the past, boating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and with a BAC of 0.08 and above, could result in a misdemeanor. According to G.S. 75A-10(b1), “No person shall operate any vessel while underway on the waters of this State:

  1. While under the influence of an impairing substance, or
  2. After having consumed sufficient alcohol that the person has, at any relevant time after the boating, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.”

Additionally, the law bans any individual from “manipulat[ing] any water skis, surfboard, nonmotorized vessel, or similar device on the waters of this State while under the influence of an impairing substance.”

Violating either of these laws can result in a class 2 misdemeanor. The new law, however, expands on the punishments of boating while impaired. Called Sheyenne’s Law, the law is named after 17-year-old Sheyenne Marshall, who was killed on Lake Norman in 2015 by a drunken boater. In addition to Sheyenne, there were also 25 other boating deaths in North Carolina in 2015, and nearly half of them involved alcohol.

Penalties for Boating Under the Influence

If you’re caught driving a boat or using water skis (or other non-motorized vessels) while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you may be facing a class 2 misdemeanor. In North Carolina, this may involve 1 to 60 days of active, intermediate, or community punishment. An active punishment signifies jail time, and intermediate and community punishments mean that the judge can impose alternate penalties.

The new boating while impaired law, which takes effect on December 1st, alters this penalty structure. Sheyenne’s Law makes it a felony if an impaired boater causes serious injury or death. The specific penalties are as follows:

  1. If an incident causes great bodily injury, then it may be punishable by a fine of $5,000 to $10,000 and up to 15 years in prison.
  2. If an incident results in death, then it may be punishable by $10,000 to $25,000 fine and up to 25 years in prison.

Operating a sailboat or a powerboat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, without property damage or serious injury, is still a misdemeanor. For a first offense, the alleged offender could be looking at $200 fine or up to 30 days in jail. For a second offense, the penalties may include $2,000 to $5,000 in fines and up to one year in jail. For a third offense, the penalties may include $3,500 to $6,000 in fines and up to three years in jail.

No matter the charge, even if it was just your first offense, you may also lose your boating privileges. A first offense may restrict your boating privileges by around six months, while a third offense could keep you from driving a boat for up to three years.

Call the Law Office of Dewey P. Brinkley

Boating while impaired is certainly dangerous, and Sheyenne’s Law is North Carolina’s attempt at making the state’s lakes and rivers increasingly safe. Nonetheless, the law can be complicated, and if you were arrested for boating while impaired, you need to call the most experienced criminal defense lawyer in the Raleigh area. At the Law office of Dewey P. Brinkley, we’ve successful defended many individuals charged with DWIs as well as boating while impaired charges.

For a free, no-obligation consultation with defense attorney Dewey Brinkley, call our Raleigh law firm today at 919-832-0307.

DWI Traffic Stops Part Three: To Blow or Not to Blow, that is the Question

In Parts one and two, we discussed how you can always help yourself in a driving while impaired investigation by not answering questions and not agreeing to perform field sobriety tests, which generally are used to assist the officer in forming probable cause to support your arrest. While not answering questions and not doing the tests won’t prevent your arrest, it will make your case much harder to prove when it goes to court.

In Part 3, I want to discuss the decision of whether to blow at the station or jail, which is a much more difficult question that will have immediate ramifications on your driver license. It is unfortunately a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario.

When you are taken into the intoximeter room, the Officer is required to advise you of certain rights you have with regard to the taking of the chemical test. By all means you should exercise your right to call a witness to come and view the testing procedure, and/or an attorney for advice. By picking up the phone in the breath testing room and making these calls, you are at the very least buying more time (at least an extra 15 minutes) to consider the more important question of whether you are going to blow. If a witness is able to arrive at the breath testing room within the 30 minute time limit, then you can utilize that witness at trial as to what they observed regarding your level of sobriety. You are also giving your body more time to process any alcohol that is in your system.

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DWI Traffic Stops Part Two: Don’t Do the Tests

In part one we discussed how you shouldn’t answer those little innocuous questions the Officer asks you that often come across as just small talk during DWI traffic stops. In part two, I want to talk about why it is vitally important that you not attempt to perform any physical field sobriety tests, no matter your level of sobriety.

Field sobriety tests are set up to make you fail. They are hard to do. Many officers describe and demonstrate what they want you to do so quickly that it is hard to follow. Usually they don’t demonstrate the whole test they want you to perform. Unless you can do them with exacting perfection, a 100% right, they are going to be used against you in a court of law. And you can bet that if you do 98 things out of a 100 right, the prosecutor is not going to stop hammering home in their argument the two things you did wrong.
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DWI Traffic Stops Part One: Don’t Answer Those Innocent Little Questions!

Most of us grew up respecting police officers and the hard jobs they have. As a Raleigh DWI Lawyer and former Prosecutor, I can tell you that they don’t have an easy job. When we are stopped by a police officer for a basic traffic violation (speeding, running a red light), or suspicion of DWI, we have a natural inclination to follow the officer’s instructions because that’s just how we were raised, we don’t want to get in further trouble, and lots of times feel if we comply with what the officer wants, the encounter will end and we will be on our way.

From the point that an officer smells any odor of alcohol coming from the passenger area of a motor vehicle, a DWI investigation has begun. The officer is trying to build a case. If it’s late, they are probably going to assume you are over the limit. If you are chewing gum or have breath mints or smoking a cigarette, they will think you are trying to mask the odor of alcohol. Continue reading

Raleigh DWI Lawyer Offers Guidance on Blood Tests

If you have been charged with a driving while impaired (DWI) offense and the charging officer requested a blood sample from you, chances are your case falls into one of three categories:

  1. you were involved in an accident involving personal injury to yourself where you were transported to a hospital and breath testing equipment was not readily available, or you were unconscious and could not perform a breath test;
  2. the officer suspects that you were impaired by drugs rather than alcohol, or drugs in addition to alcohol; or
  3. you refused to submit to a chemical analysis of your breath and the officer obtained a search warrant from a magistrate for a blood sample.

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