A charge of Driving While Impaired (sometimes referred to as a “DUI,” but called a “DWI” in North Carolina) is a serious offense. The North Carolina legislature expressed this in writing the laws that govern this charge—for example, a DWI conviction explicitly cannot be expunged. It will be on your record for the rest of your life. It is absolutely necessary to consult with and hire experienced DWI counsel if you or a loved one is facing this charge.
You may be familiar in general with your constitutional rights that protect you against unreasonable “search and seizure.” For example, generally speaking, the police could not seize you while you were walking in your personal driveway and search your vehicle without either a search warrant or probable cause that a crime was occurring or had occurred, and that evidence of such a crime was in your vehicle. (We say “generally” because there are certain exceptions, but those are for another post.) DWI law is an interesting departure from what many people understand about their search and seizure rights. The police only need “reasonable suspicion” that you are driving while impaired to pull your car over, which is a standard much less than probable cause. This is permissible because of the concept of “implied consent”: because using publicly owned and maintained roads and highways is a privilege, and not a right, while driving on those roads/highways you are deemed to have given “implied consent” for the police to pull you over under the lesser standard of reasonable suspicion.
In addition, while a blood alcohol content (“BAC”) of .08% or more is automatically to be “impaired”, even if your BAC is below that amount, you can still be charged and convicted of a DWI if the State can show the court that you were compromised to the level of impairment.
Not only are your search and seizure rights lessened when it comes to DWI charges, but the consequences can also be dire. Under certain circumstances, your license may be automatically revoked and suspended for 30 days at the time you are initially charged. If you are convicted, your license will be automatically suspended for one year. If you have prior DWI convictions, your license will be suspended for an even longer length of time. It is extremely important to consult with and hire an experienced lawyer if you or a loved one are facing a DWI charge.