Raleigh DWI Lawyers

DWI Attorneys Fighting for You

Driving while impaired, or DWI, is a common arrest in North Carolina, but that doesn’t mean it’s not serious. Depending on the circumstances behind your arrest, you may be facing losing your license,your job, large fines, or even time in jail, plus a serious arrest on your record that will follow you every time you look for a job or fill out a rental application. Your future depends on having an experienced, aggressive DWI attorney acting on your behalf to ensure your rights are protected  while doing everything possible to help you avoid harsh penalties. 

Why choose Sandman, Finn, & Fitzhugh? With over 60 years of combined legal experience and a proven history of success, we bring innovative legal solutions to our clients and strive to protect your freedom and future. As we advocate for you, both in and out of court, we’ll walk you through the complicated legal process, keeping you informed, setting realistic expectations, and acting as your ally. 

How DWIs are Determined

It’s commonly thought that a DWI is only charged when someone has been drinking. However, North Carolina prohibits operating a vehicle and being in actual physical control under the following conditions: 

  • Under the influence of an impairing substance, including alcohol or controlled substances;
  • Having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent (or 0.04 percent for commercial drivers, including trucks, taxis, and ride share)
  • Having a schedule one controlled substance, such as opiates, in your system, even if they are legally prescribed.

DWI Charges and Penalties in North Carolina

A DWI is typically a misdemeanor in North Carolina, but there are six levels that play a role in any penalty: 1A, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Level 1A is the most severe while level 5 is the least. 

The level of misdemeanor punishment is determined by three types of factors: 

Grossly Aggravating Factors

These will make your penalty more severe as they are seen as negatively compounding the crime of driving while impaired. Factors include receiving a DWI  while driving on a with a license that was revoked license due to a prior DWI or, a prior conviction within 7 years of the date offense of the current DWI charges ( if there is more than one conviction each will count separately), committing a DWI with a minor or disabled person in the vehicle (this factor counts twice), or being involved in an accident that resulted in serious injury to another person.

  • If One grossly aggravating factor is present the DWI is a Level 2 DWI
  • If Two grossly aggravating factors are present the DWI: Level 1  ( remember, have a child in the car counts as two factors regardless of the number of children in the car.
  • If Three or more grossly aggravating factors ar present the DWI : Level 1A

If there are no grossly aggravating factors present your DWI cannot, as a matter of law, be a level 1A,1 or 2; therefore your DWI must be a level 3,4 or 5. To determine the level we look at whether there are aggravating factors and mitigating factors and balance them out. 

If there are more aggravating factors the DWI is a level 3. If there are more mitigating factors the DWI is a level 5. If they tie, the DWI is a level 4.

Aggravating & Mitigating Factors

Aggravating Factors include a blood alcohol level of 0.15, causing an accident without severe injury, and having two or more traffic violations on your record that don’t involve impaired driving, having a license that was revoked for something other than a DWI or a DWI conviction older than 7 years. 

A mitigating factor includes driving in a safe and lawful manner with the exception of impaired driving, an impairment caused by a lawfully prescribed drug and was taken in a prescribed amount, or a BAC that did not exceed 0.09, having a safe driving record and completing a substance abuse assessment and the recommended treatment.

Penalties for DWIs

Based on any factors of the case, if found guilty of a DWI, penalties are based on the level of DWI that is applicable:

  • Level 1A: A minimum of 120 days in jail and Up to 36 months in jail and a $10,000 fine
  • Level 1: A minimum of 30 days in jail and  Up to 24 months and a $4,000 fine. 
  • Level 2: A minimum of 7 days in jail and Up to 12 months and a $2,000 fine
  • Level 3: Up to six months and a $1,000 fine, and 72 hours of community service
  • Level 4: Up to 120 days and a $500 fine and 48 hours of community service
  • Level 5: Up to 60 days and a $200 fine and 24 hours of community service

DRIVERS LICENSE REVOCATION:

If convicted of a level 1A, 1, or 2 a persons diver’s license will be revoked and they will not be eligible for a limited driver’s license. Depending on the level the loss of driver’s license can be anywhere from one year to a permanent revocation.


If convicted of a level 3,4 or 5 a driver’s license is revoked for one year but the driver is eligible for a limited driver’s license allowing them to drive to work, school, church, and household errands.

DWI As a Federal Crime

While the overwhelming majority of DWI cases are handled by the state, there are times they can be prosecuted by the United States Department of Justice. Specifically, any crime that occurs on federal property, such as a military base, national park, and land that’s protected by the Department of Agriculture or US Fish and Wildlife Service.

A civilian who is arrested on a military base for driving while intoxicated will be prosecuted by the federal court, but, because there are no federal laws regarding DWI, the laws of the state will be used. A member of the armed forces who is charged with DWI while on base may be held to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and may also face prosecution in civilian court.

The Necessity of a DWI Attorney

Many people feel there isn’t much they can do when facing a DWI charge, but that’s simply not true. An experienced attorney will work to have charges dropped, and, if that’s not possible, will do everything possible to minimize the penalty. Going to jail and losing driving privileges can lead to a loss of your job and cause severe disruptions to your family. Instead of jail and heavy fines, hire the right attorney who can appeal for community service or going through a treatment program.

At Sandman, Finn, & Fitzhugh, we are on your side, providing custom, personalized representation. This includes:

  • Help getting your driving privileges back: We develop client-specific services and work swiftly to get you back on the road with your driving privilege intact. No two cases are the same, but our legal experience allows us to defend clients in the most challenging situations.
  • Representation catered to you: Can’t carve out time to meet face-to-face initially? No problem. We can communicate through email or a phone call. We’ll also stay open late to have after-hours meetings to adhere to your busy schedule.
  • Efficient legal care: After you hire Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh, we immediately file a subpoena requesting police reports and videos to ensure nothing gets erased. We’ll also make sure all motions are filed within a timely manner.
  • Focused representation to get to “not guilty”: We’ll have multiple office conferences to create a custom strategy with the ultimate goal of dismissal. As we prepare to go to trial, we focus on a sole outcome of not guilty.
  • Advocacy that never settles: If, by chance, you are found guilty we are practiced in the steps needed to avoid or limit jail time and supervised probation, and we’ll work to reduce the costs associated with a DWI.
  • Federal representation: In addition to Wake County, we are also federal criminal defense attorneys in the Eastern District of North Carolina if you are charged on federal property.

Schedule a Consultation with Our Raleigh DWI Lawyers

If you’ve been arrested for a DWI, you should take immediate action in putting us on your side of the courtroom. In these types of cases, time is absolutely crucial, and our Raleigh DWI defense lawyers develop specific strategies for DWI clients and work swiftly to get you back on the road with a driving privilege. No two cases are the same and our experience allows us to successfully defend even the most obscure cases. Contact us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for a free consultation at (919) 887-8040 or fill out our contact form to get started.