NC DWI Process: Charge, conviction, restoration of license

What happens when I get a DWI?

  • A police officer can stop your car at license check points or if the officer notices you do something the officer considers “suspicious.” NC DWI law states an officer must “encounter you during the lawful course of his/her duties.” This includes range of reasons  officer may lawfully encounter a driver. Your attorney might be able to challenge the reason you were “encountered
  • When a driver is stopped by police,  officers typically request “standardized field sobriety tests.” If a driver is not impaired and confident of ability to complete the “field sobriety tests,” participating could help the driver not be charged. If the driver chooses not to participate in the tests, he or she should be respectful when refusing. Appearing disrespectful could cause the driver problems in court
  • If there is suspicion of impaired driving, the driver will usually be charged and taken to the police station. The driver is  requested to submit to the Breathalyzer test. If the driver refuses to submit to the Breathalyzer, he or she will be charged with “refusal to submit to chemical analysis.” The driver will likely be charged with DWI as well. Refusal to submit to chemical analysis will be used as “evidence of impairment” in court. The driver can request a blood test in lieu of a breathalyzer.  The driver must have a medical professional draw the blood, usually within about 40 minutes. The officer can require a blood test for their purposes — for instance if the driver appears impaired but the Breathalyzer reading appears too low for the amount of impairment observed, or if the driver is unconscious. Blood test will detect substances other than alcohol in the driver’s system.
  • Driver 21 years of age and older who registers .08 or higher will likely be charged with Driving While Impaired (DWI). Drivers under age 21 can be charged with DWI and/or driving after consuming alcohol with any amount in their system. After the charges are filed and the breath or blood test completed, the driver will be taken to the magistrate to determine if he or she will be allowed to go home or to jail. This will be determined by the seriousness of the offense and by input from the police officer.
  • During the arrest, the driver’s license is revoked for 30 days (on first offense) – a “civil revocation.” The civil revocation is typical for DWI charges and for refusal to submit to chemical analysis.
  • The driver can obtain a driving privilege 10 days after the arrest after completion of a DWI substance abuse assessment and complying with the outcome of the assessment. If the driver does not complete a DWI assessment, he or she must wait 30 days and a $75 restoration fee is paid at that time. The returned license is valid until the case is resolved in court.
  • Drivers may be charged with DWI with a breathalyzer reading under .08. If the officer is convinced the driver is “impaired” the driver can be charged with DWI. The officer will use other evidence besides the Breathalyzer. Drivers are often  convicted of DWI for marijuana, cocaine, pills or other mood altering substances. Drivers may be charged with DWI after taking prescribed medication taken as prescribed.

“I came to First Step because I was arrested for a 2nd DWI. At first, I believed the program to be another ‘jump through the hoops’ program that forced sobriety and life changes on the individual needing treatment. After a few sessions, I had completely changed my mind. I noticed how the services provided focused on empowerment and group discussion and NOT as I believed on the ‘carrot and stick’ treatment. This helped me to see what lay clearly before me, a route out of the ‘cycle of abuse’ that I had developed. Through guided sessions and open discussions I learned many ways to avoid the pitfalls of relapse. I can truly say that this treatment has changed my outlook on life. For the better!” Anonymous group program participant

  • Refusal to submit to chemical analysis will result in loss of driver’s license for 1 year even if found not guilty of DWI. If found guilty of both DWI and refusal, the driver can technically lose his or her license for at least 2 years; one year for refusal to submit to chemical analysis and another year for the DWI conviction.
  • If the driver refuses to submit to chemical analysis, the driver cannot apply for a “limited driving privilege” until a substance abuse assessment and recommended treatment level is completed. The offender must wait 6 months from the date of revocation to apply for a Limited Driving Privilege, and only after the assessment and treatment/education is completed.
  • A first offense DWI conviction with a registered .15 or higher B.A.C. (blood/breath alcohol concentration), will result in a requirement that the DWI offender install an Ignition Interlock Device (Monitech Ignition Interlock Systems, Smart Start, etc). The ignition interlock system must remain on the car for a minimum of 12 months. A driver who has been convicted of more than one DWI is required to install the device for a period determined by the court or DMV for 4 years, possibly longer.
  • It is usually an advantage to complete the DWI assessment and begin ADETS or treatment before going to court. It is a “mitigating factor” and could lessen the severity of punishment and possibly assist in avoiding probation or jail time.
  • First DWI arrest:  a Blood or Breath Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .14 or less, no accident with personal injury or more than $500 property damage and the driver has no other history of substance use problems the offender might qualify for ADETS (Alcohol and Drug Education Traffic School). This is the shortest/least expensive (16 hours/$160) level of counseling required by the DWI Assessment according to NC DWI law. If there are other indications of a substance use disorder, mild to severe, the offender will be required to complete 20-90 hours of outpatient treatment. If the use is severe inpatient treatment with aftercare totaling 90 days may be necessary. All who are convicted are required to attend various levels of DWI education or counseling. Neither the judge nor anyone else can excuse the convicted offender from this requirement.
  • More than one offense, lifetime requires to completion of a minimum of the 20/30-hour, 40/60-hour, 90-hour group or possibly inpatient treatment, depending on the outcome of the assessment. Criteria for outcomes of the assessment are set by state law, not the agency providing the assessment. An assessment and “508 Form” is required for each DWI conviction, no matter how old the charge.
  • The cost of an NC DWI assessment is $100 at every agency in NC. State law allows you to choose any DWI agency you’d like.
  •  Courts cannot mandate you receive services from any specific agency for DWI or driving after consuming <21, even if the agency has an office in the courthouse. Requiring a specific program is illegal.
  •  Breathalyzer reading is .16 or higher:  possible supervised probation on first offense. With a second or third conviction you will most likely receive supervised probation. If you receive unsupervised probation you will not have to check in with a probation officer. If it is supervised, you will have to check in with the probation officer, keep the office informed of your whereabouts, pay a monthly fee, and possibly submit to regular urine drug and alcohol screens.
  • An offender might be issued a “Limited Driving Privilege” by the judge. This is not guaranteed but is usually allowed for first offenses. Limited driving privileges may be allowed for second offenses after 2 years of a 4 year revocation. The judge might require that the offender not obtain a “Limited Driving Privilege” until he/she has had a DWI assessment. The court can require that the offender complete the treatment program before issuing a Limited Driving Privilege (LDP).
  • A limited driving privilege is good for 365 days and cannot be extended. If the 365 day revocation is up, driving may be considered Driving While License Revoked. This can result in an additional year of revocation without the benefit of a Limited Driving Privilege and a $500 fine. All persons in the State of NC who receive a “DWLR” (Driving While Licensed Revoked) for DWI, must receive another DWI assessment.
  • Your Limited Driving Privilege will not be extended if your requirements are not met before your revocation period is up. Once the period of revocation passes, you will not be given a driving privilege until all requirements are met, the “508 Form” is processed and entered into the computer by NC DWI Services and the NC DMV. You must make payment of a $75 restoration fee and an additional $15 for a new license. You must also inform the agency of your conviction date. DWI assessment and counseling agencies have no means of obtaining a conviction date, without which the “508 form” cannot be completed or forwarded to the state.
  • For your assessment agency to complete the documents to release your drivers license, you must contact the agency with your conviction date. DWI agencies have no means of obtaining the conviction date for your NC DWI charge. The completion form (“508 form”) required by the State to release the suspension of your driver’s license cannot be completed without the exact conviction date. With out it, restoration of your driver’s license isn’t possible. It is also helpful if you let us know if your case is dismissed or reduced so we can enter it into your record.

“Getting a DUI changed my life forever. I always knew I had a problem but refused to address it because I was addicted to feeling nothing but I was tired of wearing a mask every day. Witch the help of my counselors, I’m starting to find my sober self and although it gets rough at points/moments/days; I remember that the fire within me shines brighter than the fire around me. I won’t let my past, people, and alcohol destroy me anymore. Thank you for helping me find myself when I could no longer find the light. My name is [Anonymous] and I’m an alcoholic but more importantly, 146 days sober.” Anonymous DWI program client

“I was charged with a DWI. My attorney told me to come to First Step. I did not know what to expect but found First Step to be an environment of diverse people from all walks of life. I learned that all of us in group were on our journey of recovery, each heading down our own road. I met a lot of good and nice people. I learned from all the stories that brought each individual to First Step. Their experiences helped me to see that addiction is very powerful and controlling in people’s lives. I sincerely wish each and every one who comes to First Step a positive road to recovery and better life. I am grateful to the counselors for their dedication to the First Step program. It takes a special person to be in this job. Thank you for caring and your continuing support.” ~ Anonymous DWI Client upon completion of the First Step program

– First Step will complete your DWI Assessment and get you started quickly, often the day you call or walk in.

– We ensure you have everything you need concerning your assessment the day you come in if you bring your ticket, breathalyzer verification, a certified copy of your driving record, and your fee in cash, debit/credit card.

– We create a report for your attorney to be used in court, if so requested, while you are at our office. There is no waiting period. 

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