The ramifications of a DWI conviction can have long lasting effects, and they can increase exponentially when there is already a DWI on someone’s record. If you are facing a DWI charge in Raleigh or Wake County and you have prior DWI convictions, it is almost mandatory that you find an experienced DWI attorney who can navigate North Carolina law and find as many issues in your case as possible and lessen the possible punishments if you’re convicted.
What Are the Possible Punishments for a Second (Or More) DWI Conviction in North Carolina?
The North Carolina DWI statutes are some of the strictest in the United States. Punishments for a second or more DWI conviction will include:
• Revocation of a person’s driver’s license:
If you’ve had a DWI conviction in the last seven years prior to the offense date of your current DWI offense, upon conviction you would face a minimum one-year license revocation without the option of a getting limited driving privilege.
If you’ve had a DWI conviction in the last three years prior to the offense date of your current DWI offense, upon conviction the license revocation would be for four years. The DMV would allow for you to apply for a conditional driving privilege, but only after serving at least two years of the four year suspension.
If the current DWI offense would be your third DWI conviction and the last conviction occurred within five years, DMV would permanently revoke your license. They would allow you to apply for a conditional driving privilege after three years of non-operation.
• Payment of up to a substantial fine;
• Taking a substance abuse assessment and completing recommended treatment;
• Having an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle;
• Up to three years in custody depending on the DWI conviction level
When is a Prior DWI Conviction Considered an Aggravating Factor or Grossly Aggravating Factor in North Carolina?
When someone is convicted of DWI in North Carolina, the court takes different factors into consideration in determining which punishment level should apply. When aggravating and grossly aggravating factors are present in a case, the likelihood of a harsher sentence goes up dramatically. To learn more about the six possible DWI sentencing levels, click here.
Examples of aggravating factors in North Carolina DWI cases:
(a) an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or higher at the time of the offense;
(b) especially reckless driving;
(c) negligent driving that led to a reportable accident;
(d) driving with a revoked license;
(e) speeding to elude arrest;
(f) speeding by at least 30 m.p.h. over the speed limit; and
(g) passing a school bus; and
(h) a prior DWI conviction more than seven years before the offense date of the current charge.
Examples of grossly aggravating factors in North Carolina DWI cases include:
(a) a prior DWI conviction within seven years of the current offense;
(b) driving with a license that is revoked for a prior DWI conviction;
(c) serious injury to another person caused by the impaired driving; and
(d) driving with a person under the age of 18 in the vehicle;
It is the sentencing judge’s duty to weigh these possible factors against any mitigating factors that may exist. A discussion of possible mitigating factors in North Carolina DWIs can be found here. Regardless of the number of mitigating factors presented, a person whose case includes at least one grossly aggravating factor will be sentenced to some term of active jail time or its equivalent at an in-patient substance abuse facility. The more grossly aggravating factors that are present in a DWI case in North Carolina, the more severe the punishment level and in turn the amount of active jail time and fines that will apply.
When Can the Police Seize Your Vehicle for a DWI Arrest?
North Carolina law allows for the seizure of a vehicle used to commit DWI in only a few instances. An officer may seize your vehicle if you are charged with DWI and at the time of the arrest:
• Your license is revoked for a prior DWI offense or refusal; or
• You are not validly licensed and not covered by automobile liability insurance.
Even if your vehicle is seized, you or someone else who may own the vehicle still have rights to that property. Scenarios involving the mistaken seizure of a vehicle following a DWI arrest are fairly common, and vehicles have been returned and/or DWI cases have been dismissed for these types of errors.
When Does a DWI Charge Qualify as Habitual Impaired Driving in North Carolina?
A person can be charged with habitual DWI in North Carolina if they have had three prior DWI convictions within the past ten years. The fourth DWI conviction is actually classified as a felony, and the person will be sentenced to at least one year in jail among other punishments. In Raleigh and Wake County habitual DWI cases, often times a negotiated plea can be made that saves the person from becoming a convicted felon; this will most likely include a substantial jail sentence among other conditions.