If you have been arrested for drunk driving in North Carolina, you are most likely facing multiple serious penalties, including time in jail, losing your driver’s license, and a criminal record that can affect your ability to get a job or rent a property. However, the penalties you face are dependent on variables surrounding your arrest, called aggravating and mitigating factors. Our team of DWI lawyers in Raleigh are breaking down what these are and how they can affect your case.
Degrees of DWI Charges
First, let’s look at how DWIs are charged in North Carolina so you can better understand how grossly aggravating, aggravating, and mitigating factors come into play. North Carolina prohibits operating a vehicle while intoxicated which is defined by having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or having a schedule one controlled substance, such as marijuana or opiates, in your system at the time of the arrest.
While a DWI is a misdemeanor, you will be charged with one of six levels of DWI to determine the penalty you face:
- Level 1A: 120 days up to 36 months in jail and a $10,000 fine as well as posssible permanent loss of your driver’s license.
- Level 1: 30 days in jail up to 24 months and a $4,000 fine as well as one year to permanent loss of driving privileges.
- Level 2: 7 days in jail to 12 months and a $2,000 fine and a minimum of one year without your driver’s license.
- Level 3: Up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, possible community service, and revoked driver’s license with the potential for limited driving privileges.
- Level 4: Up to 120 days and a $500 fine, possible community service, and revoked driver’s license with the potential for limited driving privileges.
- Level 5: Up to 60 days and a $200 fine, possible community service, and revoked driver’s license with the potential for limited driving privileges.
The charge you are facing is determined by the presence of grossly aggravating factors, aggravating factors, and mitigating factors.
Understanding Grossly Aggravating Factors
A grossly aggravating factor in a DWI is a variable that negatively compounds the crime of drunk or impaired driving. This includes:
- A DWI conviction which occurred after the current offense, but before sentencing.
- A previous DWI conviction within the past seven years.
- Getting arrested for a DWI while driving on a suspended license for a prior DWI offense.
- Being involved in a car accident that resulted in a serious injury while drunk driving.
- Drunk driving with a minor child under 18 years of age or a disabled person in the vehicle. This counts as two grossly aggravating factors.
Regardless of any other variables or factors present, if one grossly aggravating factor is present at the time of arrest, the charge will automatically be a Level 2 DWI. Two grossly aggravating factors, or impaired driving with a minor or disabled person in the vehicle is an automatic Level 1 DWI, and three or more grossly aggravating factors will be charged as a Level 1A DWI.
Understanding Aggravating Factors in a DWI
Aggravating factors are seen as negative variables that compound a DWI, but aren’t as severe as a grossly aggravating factor. These include:
- Driving with a BAC of 0.15 percent or gross impairment of the driver’s faculties.
- Driving dangerously or recklessly.
- Negligent driving which led to an accident.
- Driving with a revoked license (non-DWI related).
- Driving at least 30 mph over the posted speed limit.
- Driving by a stopped school bus.
- Speeding while fleeing or attempting to avoid arrest.
- Two or more prior convictions for a traffic violation (non-DWI related) which cost three points.
- One or more prior DWI convictions which happened more than seven years before the current offense.
Understanding Mitigating Factors
A mitigating factor is a factor or variable that can positively influence your case and result in a lesser charge. These include:
- Slight impairment of the driver’s faculties due to alcohol consumption and having a BAC of .09 after driving.
- Slight impairment of the driver’s faculties due to alcohol consumption without a chemical analysis.
- Besides driving under the influence, the driver was following the law and driving safely.
- Besides driving under the influence, the driver has a safe driving record or hasn’t been convicted of an offense worth at least four points.
- Driving under the influence of a prescribed medication, according to the right dosage.
- Voluntarily submitting into a mental health facility for assessment after a DWI charge
- Completing a substance abuse evaluation, complying with recommendations, and abstaining from alcohol for 60 days according to the continuous alcohol monitoring (CAM) system.
When a judge is presented with the aggravating and mitigating factors, the charge is determined thus:
- More aggravating than mitigating factors: A Level 3 DWI.
- Equal amount of aggravating and mitigating factors: A Level 4 DWI.
- More mitigating factors than aggravating factors: A Level 5 DWI.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a DWI Lawyer in Raleigh
Having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side can help you get a less severe punishment for your DWI. At Sandman, Finn, & Fitzhugh, we strive to bring mitigating factors to light, have charges reduced or dropped, and achieve favorable outcomes for our clients. Call us 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.