Every state in the US upholds unique laws pertaining to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or driving while intoxicated (DWI). For example, North Carolina enforces some of the strictest DWI laws in the country, imposing severe penalties on drivers caught operating their vehicles illegally under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including some prescriptions that interfere with the user’s ability to drive safely. Most DWI cases begin with a traffic stop when police notice a driver operating their vehicle erratically, often a sign of intoxication behind the wheel.
If you or a loved one was recently arrested for DWI in Hickory, NC, it’s vital to know your rights and to secure legal counsel as soon as possible. An experienced Hickory DWI lawyer can help you determine your best defenses against conviction, potentially securing a lighter sentence if a conviction is unavoidable or assisting you in disproving the charges against you.
Helton, Cody & Associates has years of experience defending clients in Catawba, Caldwell, and Burke Counties, in a wide range of criminal cases, including DWI cases. North Carolina prosecutors tend to seek convictions aggressively for DWI violations, so it’s vital to defend yourself as vigorously as possible when facing the harsh penalties that a DWI conviction entails. Our team can help you exercise your rights, approach your case with greater confidence, and potentially help you secure a much lighter sentence than you initially anticipated.
The moment you are charged with DWI, you have a serious problem. You will be asked to incriminate yourself by blowing into a breathalyzer. If convicted, you will be asked to pay a substantial fine. You will lose your driving privileges, possibly for several months, if not years. These convictions will impact your very livelihood.
The average person with no formal legal training should not attempt to defend themselves against any criminal charge, no matter how minor the case may seem. When it comes to DWI cases, the penalties for conviction can follow the defendant for years and interfere with their life in numerous ways. You should not risk these penalties out of fear of potential attorneys’ fees.
The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution ensures that every American charged with a criminal offense has access to defense representation, even if they are unwilling or unable to hire a private criminal defense lawyer. The court can appoint a public defender free of charge, but these attorneys have demanding schedules that afford them little time to give any one case much personal attention. While most North Carolina public defenders are talented and hardworking attorneys, their jobs prevent them from offering the level of personal attention your case would receive from a private Hickory DWI defense attorney.
Your situation may not be as hopeless as it initially seems, but you will likely need the assistance of an experienced attorney to help you determine your best options for defense. North Carolina enforces stringent DWI laws and imposes severe penalties that escalate with repeat offenses. Therefore, you need an attorney who can help you identify the best possible defenses available to you with the experience and resources required to guide you through your case as effectively as possible.
We’ve all made mistakes we wish we could take back. Unfortunately, if that mistake is drinking and driving, then it may not be a mistake you can easily take back. North Carolina has strict laws when it comes to impaired driving:
These only scrape the surface of the potential DWI charges you could face in North Carolina, and they do not account for all of the difficulties you could face, which can include a substantial increase in your automobile insurance premiums and the potential risk of losing employment.
It’s common for those convicted of DWI offenses to lose their professional licenses, preventing them from continuing to work in their chosen field and forcing them to secure alternative employment. They will also lose standing in their community, and some may lose custody rights of their children and face other consequences that affect their personal lives deeply. In the event a DWI case involves injury or death of another driver, the defendant is likely to face civil liabilities in addition to their criminal penalties, leading to significant financial losses and additional legal fees.
North Carolina police officers use a BAC measurement system to determine whether a driver is under the influence of alcohol. Police officers can require drivers to submit a breath sample via a portable breath test (PBT) device, commonly called a breathalyzer. If the driver’s breath sample is over the applicable legal limit, the officer will arrest the driver for DWI. After the arrest, the officer will likely administer a more accurate breath examination at the police station to confirm the suspect’s BAC level.
If a police officer suspects the driver is a drugged driver, a breath test is not applicable, and the police officer may seek a blood sample instead. However, if the driver refuses to submit to a blood test or if they are unconscious, the police officer may only perform such a test with a search warrant. Police officers may also consult drug recognition experts to assist them in determining whether a driver is under the influence of drugs.
North Carolina’s implied consent law requires drivers to submit to chemical testing when police officers have probable cause to suspect them of DWI. If a driver refuses to submit to such testing, the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will immediately suspend their driver’s license for 30 days, followed by a one-year driver’s license revocation following their initial hearing. Even if the driver is eventually found not guilty of a DWI offense in court, the one-year license suspension stands due to their violation of the implied consent law.
While some drivers may think they don’t need to submit to preliminary chemical testing, refusal to do so can potentially give the police the probable cause they need to conduct an arrest. In addition, they will face automatic license revocation for up to one year, even if found not guilty. Therefore, drivers must be prepared to submit to chemical testing upon request from police officers even if they know they are not under the influence.
Your Hickory DWI defense lawyer will help you determine the best available defenses in your situation. It’s possible to challenge a DWI charge in multiple ways depending on the unique details of the case:
First-time DWI offenses typically offer more opportunities for defense than second or subsequent DWI offenses. DWI is a “wobbler” in North Carolina, meaning it can potentially qualify as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the case’s specific details. In the face of incontestable evidence from the prosecution, your attorney may instead try to focus on lowering your sentence. They may accomplish this by arguing that the standard penalty would be inappropriate due to your unique circumstances.
Unlike other states where some defendants can plead down to “wet reckless” charges, North Carolina recognizes no such charges, and state prosecutors will not plea bargain in DWI cases. However, the judge handling the case may acknowledge that a defendant requires substance abuse treatment or other alternative sentencing instead of jail time. Some judges will be willing to agree to conditional probation instead of incarceration for some defendants. This isn’t guaranteed or possible in every case, so it’s vital to consult your Hickory DWI defense attorney to determine your best defense options for your DWI case.
Unfortunately, some DWI drivers cause severe injuries and fatalities due to their actions. In these situations, felony prosecution is likely, and the defendant could face a substantial incarceration term, heavy fines, and civil liability for the damages they caused to others. When prosecuted as a felony, DWI with injury or death can lead to several years in state prison. For example, if a defendant has a prior felony conviction for DWI and then causes a fatal injury to another person with another DWI within seven years, they could face up to 40 years in prison.
When victims survive, they have the right to seek civil damages from DWI drivers. While the judge handling the criminal case against the defendant may include restitution to victims as part of the sentence, the victim or the victim’s family would have the right to file a civil claim against the defendant, seeking compensation for medical expenses, lost income, lost affection from a wrongfully killed family member, and funeral and burial expenses.
Helton, Cody & Associates has substantial experience handling a wide range of criminal cases on behalf of clients throughout the Hickory, NC, area. We understand the stress and anxiety you likely face as you wonder what your criminal case might entail and what penalties a judge may impose upon you. A DWI conviction carries severe immediate penalties and long-lasting effects that can interfere with your life in several ways. In this difficult situation, you need defense representation you can trust.
When we take on a DWI case, we fully investigate the circumstances of your arrest, including probable cause, how the field sobriety and blood alcohol tests were administered, and if officers properly advised of your rights. We can also conduct witness interviews and testimony from experts to get a better understanding of the situation.
As experts in criminal proceedings, we represent anyone who has been charged with drinking and driving. To set up a consultation with an experienced Hickory DWI attorney at our firm in Hickory, call 828-328-9966 (toll-free at 888-321-0494) or send us an email.