Generally, driving while impaired (DWI) in North Carolina is a misdemeanor offense unless there are aggravating factors. However, if you are a repeat offender charged with a habitual DWI, you could face a felony conviction with steep penalties. Why is a habitual DWI charge so bad? Unlike other DWI crimes, a habitual DWI conviction depends on your prior offenses, and even DWI crimes committed in other states can provide the foundation the State needs to convict you on habitual charges. A conviction for a habitual DWI means felony status, lengthy time behind bars, and losing your right to legally drive in North Carolina for the rest of your life. If you are facing DWI charges, you need an attorney to protect your rights.
What is a habitual DWI?
To be charged with a habitual DWI, an individual must have been convicted of at least three prior DWI offenses in the ten years immediately preceding the fourth offense. For a conviction, the State must prove that the defendant is guilty of the currently pending DWI charge, has three or more prior DWI convictions all of which are within ten years of the offense date of the currently pending charge, and that the prior conviction involves similar conduct.
The habitual DWI in North Carolina is different from the “three strikes” laws found in other states. Here, there must be three DWI convictions and the fourth DWI charge within ten years can trigger the habitual DWI status. Although, the prior DWI convictions do not have to be limited to North Carolina and the law has been loosely interpreted as to what kind of offenses qualify as prior DWI convictions.
What are the penalties for a habitual DWI conviction?
North Carolina imposes strict penalties for all DWI convictions, regardless of the nature of the charge. However, the penalties associated with the Class F felony conviction for a habitual DWI are long-term and have permanent consequences. North Carolina law imposes mandatory minimum sentencing for habitual DWI convictions which include an active prison sentence of no less than twelve months and permanent driver’s license revocation. In fact, there is not even an administrative or court process in existence to help someone convicted of a habitual DWI with license restoration. Once convicted of a habitual DWI in the state of North Carolina, you can never again have a valid driver’s license in the state.
Further, simply being charged with a DWI when there is a previous conviction on your record can warrant police seizure of your vehicle at arrest and unless a proven innocent party is the rightful owner of the vehicle, your vehicle can be sold by the school board for the benefit of local schools.
Have you been charged with a DWI? Contact an attorney now!
Criminal charges are not something to navigate alone. If you have been charged with a DWI crime, especially if it is not your first offense, you need an experienced defense attorney to preserve your rights and ensure that you have a strong defense and exceptional legal representation as you face the Court.