Know your options DWI Charge in NC

Know your options DWI Charge in NC

DWI Charges North Carliona
Know your Options DWI Charge in NC
David Hands, Managing Attorney
Today, I want to focus on a Driving While Impaired (DWI) charge in North Carolina, specifically as it relates to non-commercial vehicles.  Some states have two classifications relating to driving impaired- Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and Driving Under the Influence (DUI). In North Carolina, there is only a DWI (Driving While Impaired) classification.  DWI’s are a Class A1 misdemeanor with 6 levels of punishment, with Level 5 being the least severe and Aggravated 1 being the most.  The sentencing level is determined by the judge based on factors including, but not limited to, prior DWI’s, whether or not your license was revoked for DWI, your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), whether you obtained a substance abuse assessment prior to court, if a child under 18 was in the car, and your driving record. In North Carolina, if you are suspected of driving while impaired and you refuse to take a sobriety test your license is automatically confiscated for one year. In North Carolina, if you are convicted of DWI the state has a look back period of your driving record for 7 years and the conviction is reported to the DMV.  It is then that the DMV will move forward in suspending your license.  But perhaps the most important impact to consider is that a DWI conviction stays on your criminal record for life. There are states that may allow you to have a DWI expunged from your record, but in North Carolina you cannot get an expunction.  So as one can see, a DWI is a life-changing event on many different levels. In general, an attorney looks at all of the possible legal consequences for each client and determines how to minimize the damage to their lives and livelihoods, whether by plea or trial. While not perfect, a lawyer assesses a client’s individual situation and determines what level of punishment is likely under the circumstances. In Mecklenburg County, defendants charged with DWI have a first appearance date in courtroom 1130. If an attorney is hired, they will typically go and set a new court date for plea or trial. As your attorney, I will typically have met with you prior to the first appearance and discussed the merits of your case, requested video evidence to review, and received a copy, either from you or a third party company, of your driving record.  I will also request that you complete an alcohol assessment and you consider possible locations for community service to be done in an effort to mitigate the punishment.
If you are convicted of DWI, either by plea or trial, I will address the Court and explain the various mitigating factors which work in your favor. The Judge can use these to determine the sentencing level of the Defendant, as long as there are no Grossly Aggravating Factors.  Mitigating Factors include having a safe driving record for the past 5 years (meaning no driving offenses that resulted in at least four points being assigned), voluntary submission to a DWI-alcohol assessment and agreement to participate in any recommended treatment. Limited driving privileges may also be an option, depending upon how severe the sentence is. I will discuss the Habitual DWI in more detail in another post, but I will simply say now that this offense occurs whenever a driver has three or more DWI offenses in a given 10 year period.  The Habitual Driving Offense, or the Habitual DWI, is a Class F felony punishable by no less than 1 year imprisonment. Obviously, it goes without saying that no one should drive while they are impaired. At the very least, I hope this article increases understanding of exactly what all is at stake legally if you or someone you know is ever charged with a DWI. 

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Should you get a lawyer for a traffic violation?

Should you get a lawyer for a traffic violation?

DUI AND TRAFFIC OFFENSES IN NC

Should you hire a lawyer for a traffic offense?

David Hands, Managing Attorney

Your heart is racing at the sight of blue lights in your rearview mirror and your mind is in overdrive. From admonishing yourself for your lead foot to worrying about what the final cost is going to be to your wallet as you pull over, you start focusing on your interactions with the police officer approaching your car. The most traumatic aspect of a speeding ticket may be about to get underway but the most important issue- how you handle that ticket- is yet to come. It may seem second nature to just decide to pay the fine, but many times, hiring an experienced traffic attorney can change the impact that ticket may have on you and your driving record. In today’s blog post, I am going to explain the ends and outs of one option you might have that will spare you some costs on your insurance.

One option for handling a moving violation is to request a Prayer for Judgment Continued (PJC). This request is made by your attorney after pleading responsible for the crime/infraction.  This option is unique to North Carolina and should not be your first choice in handling that ticket unless you have no other choice. A PJC will not cause your insurance premium to increase and will not cost you any driving points on your record SO LONG as you do not receive any other moving violation within the next three years. Sounds good, right? The catch is that when it comes to insurance, the companies base the amount of your premium on you and the driving records of every other driver on your policy. According to the law, a PJC can only be received by ONE driver per plan every three years. Receiving a second moving violation within that three-year window could result in your premium rising not just for one but two offenses.

Our office recently had a client who had already received a reduction on an earlier traffic offense where the Assistant District Attorney allowed the defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge of an improper equipment plea. A few months later, the client received another ticket for an improper lane change.  The only option available for this client, in order to reduce license points and insurance costs for the entire family, was a PJC.  When informing the client’s father of the successful court date to enter a PJC plea, however, he did not understand why the family would be affected by the actions of this one driver not only on their insurance premiums but also on the rules related to the use of a PJC.  As I explained to him, unfortunately, I cannot control how insurance companies rate policy holders or how the General Assembly wrote the parameters of a PJC, but the law explicitly states this is how a PJC operates.

So my message is this: if you have any other option to resolve your ticket, I advise you NOT to use a PJC.  Yes, a PJC can be a very forgiving device. However, it carries a strong bite if another ticket is issued before the end of that three year window. One of my clients and her family are now about to experience the financial pain that comes with a PJC after a second ticket is issued before the end of that three year window. In May, my client was granted a PJC motivated by the desire to keep the insurance costs for both herself and her family (since she was on her parent’s insurance policy) unaffected by a speeding ticket that could not be reduced down to improper equipment. Just last week, I received an exasperated phone call from her mother telling me that her daughter had gotten another speeding ticket.  So now both charges, along with all of the costs and fines, are about to hit her daughter and her family next time insurance renewal comes.

While Charlotte is North Carolina’s largest city, it is also the third most expensive place in the state to get a speeding ticket.”

Pullout Info: Credit to Study by NerdWallet.com

While North Carolina’s average car insurance premium is a very reasonable $902.67, drivers who are caught speeding will pay an average of $1,369.89 each year- a hike of 51.81% or $467.21- provided they switch insurers.

As in many states, North Carolina drivers experience premium increases for three years after a traffic offense. This means they’re actually on the hook for an average of $1,401.63 in additional insurance payments as the result of one ticket.

On average, a driver convicted of driving 15 miles an hour over the speed limit will pay $1,619.63 once fines, court fees and three years’ worth of car insurance increases are factored in.

While Charlotte is North Carolina’s largest city, it is also the third most expensive place in the state to get a speeding ticket.

Traffic Violation FAQs

Traffic Violation FAQs

Do I need to schedule a consultation with a lawyer for a traffic violation?   

No, most of the time a simple phone call with all information relating to the ticket and completion of a brief phone intake and access to the most current driver’s license report is all that is needed for the Hands Team to get started on your case.  More often than not, there is no need for a face to face meeting. After reviewing the driving record, the attorney will reach out to the client and discuss what can be done to best resolve the matter and all other case-related issues.

What are the steps that happen after you move forward with a traffic matter?  

If you have received a speeding ticket and have contacted Hands Law to resolve it we first need a copy of your driver’s record.  Hands Law can pull one on your behalf for $25. Once we have looked over your record, our attorney is then better able to know what legal remedies are available to you.

Will a ticket cause my insurance cost to go up?

Potentially, all moving violations carry some amount of points on your insurance.

Should I hire an attorney or pay the ticket?   

Paying the ticket without the advice of an attorney will result in a disposition of guilty being entered which could result in penalties and an increase in insurance cost.

 What if I missed my Court date? 

Do not worry, Hands Law can still help and can reschedule the matter for a future date.

I got a ticket in another state, will that affect the status of my North Carolina driver’s license?  

It could. Please reach out to Hands Law so that we can determine how best to handle your traffic issue.

Call Hands Law today at (704) 248-7976 to discuss a traffic matter and our recommendations for you.