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Driving While Intoxicated In North Carolina Carries Serious Penalties

​The State of North Carolina takes driving while intoxicated (DWI) (sometimes called driving while impaired) and driving under the influence (DUI) offenses very seriously and has strict penalties for these charges. It does not take much alcohol to reach the legal limit of impairment, and even more surprising, you can be charged with DUI if you are taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs. If you have received a charge for driving while impaired, you need the expertise and experience of Sawyer Law PA to help you get a favorable outcome.

What Should I Do If I Am Charged with DWI?

​An arrest and charge of driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence can make you feel like your life is out of control. Punishments can include fines, loss of your license, and even jail time in some cases. Your ability to get from one place to another, your freedom, and possibly your job are all at stake. Sawyer Law can help you regain control. We have the experience to help you at all levels of DWI/DUI charges, and each case is unique. We'll review your specific circumstances and aggressively fight for a favorable outcome.

Call Sawyer Law for a FREE Consultation

​At Sawyer Law, you can consult with an experienced DUI attorney about your case for FREE. You need legal representation to protect your rights. Even if you feel that you are guilty of this charge, a breathalyzer result of .08, .15, or even .20 does not mean an automatic conviction. Every DWI case is different; in some cases, a plea of NOT GUILTY may be appropriate. If so, a trial may be necessary, and you are entitled to your day in court. Call us for a FREE DUI defense consultation. Whether we discuss your case over the phone, online, or at our law office in Greensboro, NC, it is up to you.

Flat Rate Attorney Fees, No Unpleasant Surprises

​At Sawyer Law, we'll tell you upfront what our fee is. The last thing you need now in your life is more uncertainty. Our fees are very reasonable, and payment plans are available. When you call our office, you will know what to expect and do not have to fear that every time we pick up the phone, it adds to your cost. It does not. Additionally, in most cases, the fee we quote you will include any motions that arise or the need for a trial. Don't wait to regain control of your life and your future. Call Sawyer Law today at 336-274-5552 and ask for your FREE consultation.

Easy Access, Call Us Any Time

During the week we answer calls or check messages until 9 P.M. On weekends, leave a message, and we will promptly return your call. If you need to discuss your case outside of regular business hours, we can arrange that as well. Call Sawyer Law at 336-274-5552, and we will accommodate your special needs.

​Hiring a Lawyer is an Important Decision

​​What happens with the charges brought against you is important to you and your future. Hiring a lawyer to help you get the best outcome is an important decision. Wendell H. Sawyer, the source and inspiration of Sawyer Law, was first recognized as an outstanding attorney by Martindale-Hubbell in 1995. He had a special way of dealing with each case. He took the time to listen and really consider the best course for every case entrusted to him. At Sawyer Law, we continue to follow "Wendell's Way" with the help of local, experienced attorneys.

DWI is Defined by Statute

​In North Carolina, driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher will result in a DWI charge. How much you can safely drink is dependent on several factors:

  • Rate of consumption

  • Alcohol content of your drinks

  • Fat/muscle content

  • Metabolism

  • Food consumption

  • Tolerance

  • Overall health

As soon as you take your first sip of an alcoholic beverage, intoxication begins. There are also situations when an officer can arrest and charge you even though your BAC is under .08. Therefore, it is always best to never drink and drive.

For example, North Carolina is a zero-tolerance state when it involves underage drinking and driving. Any amount of alcohol, even a minimal amount, will result in a DWI charge. Additionally, combining drugs and alcohol can intensify the effects, seriously impairing your ability to drive. While your BAC level may be low, the integrated effect of alcohol and the drug may result in an arrest.

Moreover, a police officer can arrest and charge you with a DWI even though you weren’t driving. If you knowingly encourage or help another person drive while impaired, you can receive the same punishment as if you drove drunk.

​What Happens When You’re Pulled Over For a DWI

​You must stop if you see flashing lights behind you while driving home from a party. An officer may pull you over when noticing erratic driving behavior. These behaviors include failing to maintain lanes, speeding, and other judgment issues. 

In your interactions with the officer, be polite to the officer and speak calmly. With more agencies using body cameras, the officer may be recording your interaction. You don’t want to appear antagonistic, as the prosecutor can use the recorded footage. You are legally obligated to comply when the officer asks for your license, registration, and insurance information.

However, you do not have to answer any questions other than identification queries. You may refuse to respond to questions about the quantity of drink you consumed or where you’re going. Remember to be polite when declining to answer. 

However, you do not have to answer any questions other than identification queries. You may refuse to respond to questions about the quantity of drink you consumed or where you’re going. Remember to be polite when declining to answer.

​Additionally, you’re not required to take any type of field sobriety test. This includes any tests conducted while sitting in your car, like reciting the alphabet or finger dexterity tests. It also includes the right to refuse to get out of your car to perform a roadside sobriety test. Moreover, you can also refuse to take a roadside portable breath test without any penalty.

​During your exchange, the officer will be looking for any signs of intoxication. These include slurred speech, an odor of alcohol, or difficulty responding to the officer’s requests. If the officer has a sufficient, reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime, he will arrest you. Additionally, if the officer has probable cause that you are committing a crime, the officer may search your vehicle.

Procedures at the Police Station


After your arrest, the police officer will take you to the police station to submit to a breath test. If you’re suspected of drug impairment, you must submit to a blood test. While you can refuse either test, this will result in the immediate suspension of your license for one year. Ultimately, the officer can obtain a search warrant forcing you to comply.

However, you have the right to an attorney or other witness when taking the test, but your witness or lawyer must be able to get to the station quickly. You can delay the test for only 30 minutes. 

What happens next is dependent upon the results of your test. If the test indicates you were drunk driving, you need to have your photograph and fingerprints taken. Depending on the severity of your blood alcohol level, you could spend the night in jail.

Furthermore, past convictions can result in harsher penalties. Habitual impaired driving is committing four DWIs within 10 years. North Carolina treats repeated offenders with a felony charge. The court may also permanently revoke your driver’s license. Additionally, you may receive a one-year prison sentence with no right to appeal and forfeiture of your vehicle.


Aggravating and Mitigating Factors

​Often, some circumstances will make your DWI charge more serious or lessen the severity. These are aggravating and mitigating factors. The judge will consider these circumstances when issuing your sentence.

​Aggravating factors will make your crime more serious resulting in harsher penalties. Some aggravating factors include having a previous DWI, a BAC higher than .15, or causing an accident. Moreover, aggravating factors can raise your charge from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Mitigating factors can lessen the consequences of your conviction. These considerations include driving under the influence of prescribed medication and a safe driving record before the offense. Typically, a judge will consider these circumstances and lessen your penalty.

The Long-Term Implications

​When you're out having fun, you don’t stop to think of the long-term consequences of drunk driving. Yet, you’ll have a permanent criminal record with a conviction. This may affect your current employment as well as future jobs.

​Additionally, your car insurance rates will increase dramatically. You may expect to see a 340% increase in premiums for three years following a conviction, and if you were involved in an accident, you’d be liable for any injuries and damages.

​It may seem that with one mistake, you’ve lost control over your life. However, at Sawyer Law, we can help you get back in the driver’s seat. Our legal team can tailor an aggressive defense for you. During our free consultation, we’ll review your case to find the best possible outcome for you.

​If a police officer has arrested you for DWI, don’t panic. Call Sawyer Law at 336-274-5552. Experience and compassion set us apart from other firms.

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