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We often recommend challenging your DWI in either a pretrial suppression hearing, or at trial, or both.  But we also recommend being prepared in the event that you are convicted of Driving While Impaired.  In order to assess the potential consequences in your case, we’ll need to know certain details about your history and the unique facts of your case.

First, we’ll need to determine if there are any factors known as grossly aggravating factors in your case.  Under North Carolina law, grossly aggravating factors for the purpose of DWI sentencing include:

(1) A prior conviction for an offense involving impaired driving if:

  1. The conviction occurred within seven years before the date of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced; or
  2. The conviction occurs after the date of the offense for which the defendant is presently being sentenced, but prior to or contemporaneously with the present sentencing; or
  3. The conviction occurred in district court; the case was appealed to superior court; the appeal has been withdrawn, or the case has been remanded back to district court; and a new sentencing hearing has not been held pursuant to G.S. 20‑38.7.

NOTE: Each prior conviction is a separate grossly aggravating factor.

(2) Driving by the defendant at the time of the offense while his or her driver’s license was revoked for impaired driving.

(3) Serious injury to another person caused by the defendant’s impaired driving at the time of the offense.

(4) Driving by the defendant while (i) a child under the age of 18 years, (ii) a person with the mental development of a child under the age of 18 years, or (iii) a person with a physical disability preventing unaided exit from the vehicle was in the vehicle at the time of the offense.

If you have one grossly aggravating factor in your case, you will be a Level 2 for sentencing if ultimately convicted of Driving While Impaired — with one exception.  If you had a minor under the age of 18 in your vehicle (and the state is able to prove that fact beyond a reasonable doubt) at the time of the impaired driving, you will be sentenced in the more serious Level 1 category for that factor alone.  If you have two of the other listed grossly aggravating factors in your case, and the state is able to prove those factors beyond a reasonable doubt, you will be a Level 1 for sentencing.  With three or more grossly aggravating factors, you will be an Aggravated Level 1 — the most severe sentencing category for a DWI in North Carolina.

If you have any of the above grossly aggravating factors in your case, you will want to work closely with your attorney to identify steps you can take to mitigate the potential consequences of a conviction.  You’ll want to ensure that you have an experienced Durham DWI attorney working with you through the process, to give you the best chance to minimize the consequences to you and your family.  Your attorney may recommend inpatient treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, and/or an alcohol monitor known as CAM (Continous Alcohol Monitoring) or SCRAM.  Your attorney may also recommend community service or other steps, depending on the unique factors in your case.


Raleigh DWI lawyer Ben Hiltzheimer is a criminal defense attorney with offices in Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina, who represents individuals charged with DWIs and the full spectrum of misdemeanors and felonies. Contact us for a free, confidential consultation and case evaluation at (919) 899-9404.

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Ben is an experienced trial lawyer who earned his law degree from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He was trained in trial practice at the nation’s preeminent Public Defender agency, the federally funded Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, described by United States Attorney General Eric Holder as “the best public defender office in the country.”

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