Driving while impaired, driving while intoxicated, and driving under the influence are all common terms used to describe drunk driving or operating a vehicle after taking a controlled substance. But what, if any, is the difference between these terms? Our criminal defense lawyers in Raleigh are explaining what they mean and what the charges may mean for you.
The Difference Between DUI and DWI
Driving under the influence, or DUI, and driving while impaired, or DWI are often used interchangeably in conversation. They both refer to driving while affected by an impairing substance, such as alcohol or a controlled substance, so from a layperson’s perspective, there isn’t a difference between the two.
However, when it comes to legal charges and laws, there is no such thing as a DUI. In North Carolina, you will be charged with driving while impaired (DWI) because it is a more comprehensive term that includes being driving while affected by drugs, alcohol, prescriptions, and even over-the-counter medication.
What Determines a DWI in NC?
In North Carolina, you can be charged with a DWI in any of the following conditions:
- Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is a 0.08 or above.
- You are a commercial driver and have a BAC of 0.04 or above.
- You are found to be driving while under the influence of any illegal substance, including marijuana, cocaine, or heroin.
- You are driving while impaired from certain prescription drugs, such as opiates or sleeping medication, even when properly used with a legal, active prescription.
The court will look at the circumstances of your case, including how you were driving, your behavior, and any additional factors as well as what a blood test may reveal, to determine if you are driving while impaired and the level of the charge.
DWI Levels in North Carolina
There are six levels of a DWI in North Carolina, ranging from a Level 5, which is the least serious, to a Level 1A, which is the most serious. The level at which you are charged is dependent on the presence of any grossly aggravating factors, aggravating factors, and mitigating factors.
- Grossly aggravating factors include causing an accident in which someone is seriously injured or a child is in the vehicle with you.
- Aggravating factors include reckless driving, causing an accident, or having a BAC over a certain level.
- Mitigating factors are positive factors that influence your case, such as entering substance abuse treatment or the impairment was caused by a legally prescribed medication taken as directed
Any presence of a grossly aggravating factor automatically places you at facing a Level 2 DWI at the minimum. Otherwise, the judge will weigh the aggravating and mitigating factors. More aggravating factors are a Level 3 DWI, equal factors are a Level 4, and more mitigating factors mean you’ll most likely be charged with a Level 5.
What to Do If You’ve Been Charged with a DWI
If you have been arrested and charged with a DWI in North Carolina, you need to secure experienced legal counsel immediately. An experienced DWI lawyer will investigate the case, looking at the circumstances leading to the arrest and the factors involved to see if evidence was obtained lawfully or unlawfully, and they will also look at any mitigating or aggravating factors that may affect the outcome. Having an attorney on your side means you have someone fighting to minimize the penalties you may be facing and may even be able to get the charges dropped altogether.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a DWI Lawyer in Raleigh
If you have been charged with driving while impaired in North Carolina, you are facing serious consequences, including losing your license and possible jail time. The DWI lawyers at Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh can help you fight your case and will work to get the best practical outcome. Call us today at (919) 887-8040 to speak with an attorney 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or fill out the form below to get started.