North Carolina DWI charges are serious matters. Regardless of whether you are a resident of the state or a visitor, the impact of a guilty plea or conviction can be substantial. In addition to the possible penalties, a DWI conviction on your record can negatively affect your life, including your employment opportunities. Defending against a North Carolina DWI arrest is essential.
There are a number of different ways to challenge a DWI charge. Which defenses apply to your case will depend entirely on the facts surrounding your stop, arrest, and processing of the charge.
A note on terminology: In North Carolina, the title of the applicable statute is titled Impaired Driving. The abbreviations DWI (short for Driving While Impaired or previously, Driving While Intoxicated) and DUI (short for Driving Under the Influence) are both used to refer to the charge. In some states, DWI and DUI are different offenses. That is not the case in North Carolina. The preferred term is DWI, because it correlates directly to the statute title.
To prepare a defense to a DWI charge, your attorney will thoroughly investigate exactly what happened during all stages of the stop and arrest. The facts of your case are critical in developing the strategy to defend against the DWI arrest.
Your attorney will ask you to walk through the entire process, step by step. The investigation also includes talking with witnesses who were with you, and possibly even witnesses who saw you shortly before your arrest. It also includes collecting all the relevant documents about your case, including reports of any blood or breath tests that the police administered.
Your attorney’s goal will be to collect all available information about every stage of your arrest. Defending against the DWI charge may involve challenging what happened:
After compiling a complete factual analysis, your attorney will review all the facts and determine what defenses apply to your case.
To make a case, the prosecutor needs to prove that you were driving the car before your arrest. Obviously, if your DWI occurred after you stopped for a traffic violation, that fact is not disputable. But if the facts are ambiguous about whether you are driving, that issue can be raised as a defense.
If your arrest happened after a stop at a DWI checkpoint, the checkpoint operation may raise issues. While checkpoints are legal in North Carolina, they must meet certain criteria to avoid violating a driver’s fourth amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution. Your attorney will review all the facts surrounding the checkpoint and how the police conducted your stop.
If your arrest happened after police pulled you over for a traffic violation, the sequence of events leading to your actual arrest is extremely important. Police are required to have reasonable suspicion to pull you over for a traffic stop. If the evidence does not support a conclusion of reasonable suspicion, it may be possible to challenge your DWI arrest on that basis.
What occurred after the stop before your arrest is also very important. The fact must support the officer’s probable cause for making the arrest. Your attorney will review what the officer did to determine that you might be impaired, including what questions were asked and what tests were administered. If the evidence suggests that the officer made mistakes, such as incorrectly administering field sobriety tests or misinterpreting the results, that may be a basis for challenging the underlying probable cause for your arrest.
At the police station after your arrest, there are specific legal rules that police must follow. They include reading your implied consent rights and making you aware of your rights to refuse an intoxilyzer (breath) test or blood sample and to have a witness present during the test. If police did not advise you of your rights or allow you the opportunity to have a witness present, your attorney may challenge the test and results.
In cases involving a blood test, many different issues can arise that provide the basis for a defense to your DWI charge. Your attorney will carefully review every step of the process to identify any potential issues that can be raised.
After an arrest, the authorities have the responsibility to advise you of the charges against you and of your right to communicate with your friends or a lawyer. They also must advise you how to obtain your release. If the authorities deprived you of any of these rights with no justification, and your jail stay was prolonged as a result, those facts may provide a basis for your attorney to contest the charges.
There are many points during a DWI stop and arrest at which possible defenses can arise. Only an experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to compile and analyze all the facts of your case to determine whether your charges can be contested on the basis of:
The Constitutional and other legal issues involved in a DWI arrest are extremely complicated. Your attorney will know all those issues — and be skilled at applying them to the facts of your case. That is something you should not attempt to accomplish on your own.
Our respected criminal defense attorneys at The Twiford Law Firm have substantial experience defending DWI arrests based on both alcohol and drug use. We will aggressively defend you against DWI charges in North Carolina state courts. In addition, we defend against federal DWI charges arising from arrests for impaired driving in our state’s federally-owned national parks and protected areas.
With offices in Elizabeth City and Moyock, we serve clients throughout northeastern North Carolina. Contact us today at 252-338-4151 or 252-435-2811 to schedule an initial consultation.
For additional information about DWI in North Carolina, please refer to our blog post, Understanding North Carolina DWI Laws and Penalties.