It is illegal for any driver to operate a vehicle while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol, and every state upholds different laws and statutes regarding these offenses. In North Carolina, any driver charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) faces a host of penalties, some of which may negatively impact various aspects of their life for years to come. If you or a family member has recently been arrested in the Morganton, NC, area for DWI, it’s vital to know your rights that come into play in this situation and how to defend yourself against the penalties that conviction will carry.
The attorneys at Helton, Cody & Associates, PLLC, can provide the criminal defense representation you need in this difficult situation. Whether you committed the offense in question or you were wrongfully arrested, our team will uncover the truth and help you determine your best defensive options. We have helped many past clients navigate very difficult criminal cases, including many pertaining to DWI charges. Our goal in every criminal defense case we accept is to help our clients understand the legal mechanism in play in their case, help them avoid conviction if at all possible, or help them minimize their penalty if necessary.
Being arrested for the first time can be a crushing experience, and it’s understandable for anyone in this situation to feel as though the criminal justice system is pitted against them. However, regardless of whether you committed the DWI in question, you must know what to do in terms of exercising your rights upon arrest. The police are required to read you your Miranda rights, an explanation of the constitutional rights that come into play when you are arrested in the United States.
You have the right to remain silent, and you have the right to an attorney. If you have been wrongfully arrested for a DWI but know you were not impaired, you may feel like you should try and explain your side of the situation to the police, but this is never a good idea. The police have no incentive to help you, and it would be very easy for them to twist anything you say in the worst possible light when writing their police report. While some think that remaining silent upon arrest would indicate guilt, it is vital to protect yourself and assert your constitutional rights regardless of whether you committed the offense in question or were wrongfully arrested.
When it comes to hiring an attorney, many people carry a similar misconception that only the guilty need to hire legal representation. If you are arrested for DWI in Morganton, as soon as the police inform you that you are under arrest, the best thing to do is to remain silent until you are able to speak with a defense attorney.
Every American citizen is guaranteed the right to defense representation when they are charged with a criminal offense under the Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution. This law applies even when a defendant is unable or unwilling to pay for a private criminal defense attorney. In such a case, the court can appoint a public defender to represent the defendant free of charge. This may seem like a perfectly reasonable solution to obtaining defense representation in a DWI case, but a private Morganton DWI defense attorney can provide a much higher level of legal representation than you could expect from a public defender.
Most public defenders representing clients in the Morganton area are experienced and hardworking attorneys who do their best for their clients. Unfortunately, the inherent demands of their job require them to manage several cases at once, leaving them little flexibility to offer their clients much individual attention. If you are able to hire a private Morganton DWI defense attorney, they are likely able to offer a much more personalized level of defense representation than you could expect from even the best public defenders.
North Carolina’s DWI statutes mirror those found in most other states, and a defendant faces escalating penalties depending on the number of prior convictions they have on their record. Penalties can also increase in the face of certain aggravating factors, such as an excessively high blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) or causing a serious accident due to intoxication behind the wheel. However, mitigating factors work the opposite way, potentially encouraging a judge to show leniency in sentencing.
It’s possible to be charged with DWI for driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The police use chemical tests to confirm DWI, and all drivers must submit to lawful chemical tests under the state’s implied consent law. Testing for alcohol is straightforward and measures a driver’s BAC. Anything over .08% qualifies as a DWI offense in the state. When it comes to testing for drugs, this can be more challenging as different drugs will metabolize at different rates in the body. As a result, a drug may appear on a chemical test long after the intoxicating effects have stopped.
A police officer can conduct a traffic stop if they have reasonable cause to suspect a driver is under the influence of some substance. They may ascertain this and establish probable cause in various ways, from observing moving violations and/or erratic driving to physically observing evidence of intoxication inside of a driver’s vehicle. Once the police establish probable cause, they can conduct an arrest for DWI, and the driver will need to submit to chemical testing.
North Carolina law enforces severe penalties for a DWI conviction. Penalties increase with multiple convictions or when multiple aggravating factors are present in a case. At a minimum, a first-time DWI conviction with no aggravating factors in Morganton is likely to result in 48 hours to up to one year in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, and a driver’s license revocation for up to one year. Additionally, you will have a BAC limit of only .04% for the next three years. North Carolina enforces the stricter .04% BAC for commercial vehicle drivers and drivers on probation for prior DWI convictions. There is a zero-tolerance policy for drivers under 21 in the state, so any detectable BAC could lead to a DWI charge.
Penalties escalate significantly for some defendants, especially those with aggravating factors in their cases. Some of the factors that will enhance the penalties a defendant faces include:
If you face any aggravating factors and/or have a record of prior DWI convictions, defense counsel you can trust will be crucial for mitigating the penalties you face if you are convicted. The attorneys at Helton, Cody & Associates, PLLC, can meet with a client as soon as possible after an arrest to begin building their defense rapidly. Promptly securing defense representation you can trust is one of the best things you can do when you are charged with DWI in Morganton.
It is crucial to remember that if you are convicted on a DWI charge in North Carolina, the penalties assigned by the judge handling your case are just one aspect of the consequences you face. After paying your fine, completing any jail time assigned by the judge, and making it through a suspension period and/or probation, you will still face various personal and professional consequences for your actions.
You could lose your professional licenses or memberships to certain professional organizations. Depending on the nature of your work and the severity of your offense, you could be fired and have tremendous difficulty finding suitable new employment because of your criminal record. If you harmed anyone due to driving under the influence, you would face substantial liability for the damages you caused in addition to the penalties assigned by the court.
Being arrested is an incredibly disempowering and distressing experience for anyone. Whether you are arrested for the first time or have a criminal record, anyone in this situation can easily feel as though the system is pitted against them. However, no matter how hopeless your situation may seem, you could have more options available to you than you initially realize. Additionally, the burden of proving guilt rests on the prosecution, and they must prove that you committed the offense in question beyond any reasonable doubt.
Your Morganton DWI defense attorney can prevent the prosecution from meeting their burden of proof, potentially sparing you the penalties that conviction would carry in various ways. For example, successfully defending yourself from conviction on a DWI charge may require proving the police mishandled your arrest, failed to correctly establish probable cause, or compromised the validity of your chemical test somehow. It’s also possible to cite mishandling of evidence, procedural violations made by the prosecution, or violations of the defendant’s civil or constitutional rights.
When you choose Helton, Cody & Associates, PLLC, to represent you in criminal court, we will exhaust every possible defensive option on your behalf. If we notice any grounds to seek case dismissal, we will strive to have your case dropped as quickly as possible so you can move on with your life. However, if you did commit the offense in question, your defense attorney could still prove to be a valuable lifeline by preventing you from facing the worst penalties conviction could carry.
In the event that you did commit the DWI violation in question and the prosecution has more than enough evidence to secure a conviction, your Morganton DWI defense attorney can still be a valuable asset. Some prosecutors are willing to extend plea deals to certain defendants, typically those who have few to no prior criminal convictions. A plea bargain requires the defendant to enter a guilty plea in exchange for a lighter sentence. In some cases, a prosecutor may also be willing to reduce or drop charges in exchange for an immediate guilty plea. As a result, the case proceeds directly to sentencing, and the court is able to conserve resources.
A plea bargain may be the best option for someone who is clearly guilty of DWI. Your Morganton DWI defense attorney can help you determine whether this would be the best strategy for your situation. It’s possible for a prosecutor’s case to fall apart on its own due to inadmissible or questionable evidence or even the lack of evidence. Ultimately, an experienced private Morganton DWI defense attorney can provide responsive and flexible legal representation as your case evolves.
It’s vital to have a criminal defense attorney representing you no matter what kind of charges are filed. Every American citizen has the right to legal counsel when they are charged with a criminal offense, and it is crucial for you to take full advantage of this right. Regardless of whether you committed the DWI offense in question or were wrongfully arrested, having a defense attorney you can trust significantly improves your chances of reaching a positive outcome in your case.
State law recommends jail time as a standard penalty for a DWI conviction, and the amount of time the defendant must remain incarcerated hinges on the severity of their offense and whether they have a record of prior DWI convictions. Many judges are willing to consider leniency for first-time offenders, but this is never a guarantee. If you want the best chance of minimizing your penalty for a conviction for a DWI, it’s vital to secure the services of an experienced Morganton DWI defense attorney.
It is possible for a defendant to have their DWI charge dismissed on procedural grounds or when evidence comes to light of an egregious failure of due process. For example, if the police officer who arrested you failed to properly establish probable cause before conducting your arrest, or if there was any violation of your civil or constitutional rights, these issues could justify seeking a case dismissal. Your attorney can advise you as to whether any such variables exist in your situation.
If you were arrested after causing an accident while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you could face more severe penalties depending on whether you hurt or killed anyone in the accident. It’s possible to face a vehicular manslaughter charge if you cause a fatal accident, and causing any severe bodily injury to another person can automatically escalate your charge to aggravated status. An experienced Morganton DWI defense attorney is the best resource to consult when you’re concerned about facing charges beyond DWI.
While you may worry about the potential cost of hiring your defense team, the right private Morganton DWI defense attorney can offer tremendous value in your situation, helping you make the most of a very difficult situation in a variety of ways. When you choose Helton, Cody & Associates, PLLC, to manage your defense in a DWI case, our goal is to help you mitigate your penalty as much as possible and have your charges dropped if we can find any potential justification for seeking a dismissal.
The attorneys at Helton, Cody & Associates, PLLC, provide aggressive and responsive criminal defense representation to clients in the Morganton area facing prosecution. A DWI conviction will interfere with your life in several ways, so it’s best to fight your charges as much as possible with an experienced attorney on your side to minimize your penalties. Contact our firm today to schedule your consultation with a Morganton DWI defense attorney.