Experienced Raleigh DWI Attorney
Providing Clients with Aggressive Representation in All Types of Drunk Driving Offenses
It is the fear of every motorist: blue lights flickering in your rear-view mirror. While nobody wants to get pulled over by the police, the prospect of a traffic stop can be horrifying for those who have had one or two drinks. Am I going to jail? Will I lose my job? How can I afford this? What will my friends and family think of me? All of these thoughts race through your head as the officer pulls up behind you and approaches the driver’s side window.
At Hiltzheimer Law Office, PLLC, our Raleigh DWI lawyers provide committed, aggressive representation to our clients who have been arrested and charged with a Raleigh DWI offense. As experienced defense lawyers, steadfastly committed to the rights of the accused, we know what it takes to beat a drunk driving case. The founder of Hiltzheimer Law Office, PLLC, attorney Ben Hiltzheimer, is a well-respected Raleigh DWI defense attorney with a reputation for successfully defending clients in all types of DWI cases (commonly known as DUI cases in other states).
What do prosecutors need to prove in a dwi charge in wake county, North Carolina?
Police, prosecutors, and judges take Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) very seriously in North Carolina. All North Carolina DWI offenses have two essential elements that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
- You were in actual physical control of the vehicle; and
- You were under the influence of either alcohol or drugs.
In order to prove “actual physical control,” the prosecution must show that you “operated” the vehicle as defined in North Carolina law, and that you did so on a public roadway or public vehicular area (“PVA”). In some cases, this element is difficult to dispute — if the case originates, for example, as a traffic stop for speeding on a public highway. However, if the vehicle was parked at the time police arrived, there are a number of legal issues that may arise, even though the prosecution is not required to prove that the vehicle has been in motion. Was the engine running? Were the keys in the ignition? Was the hood warm? Did someone else see you driving and tell the police? The prosecution may seek to use a combination of direct and circumstantial evidence to prove operation or driving.
The second element of a DWI offense requires the prosecution to prove that you were either “appreciably impaired” by alcohol or any other impairing substance, or that your blood or breath alcohol concentration was a .08 or higher “at a relevant time after the driving.” There are several ways that the prosecution can prove intoxication, or impairment. Most commonly, they will rely on the results of a blood- or breath-alcohol test. However, in cases where the driver either refused to take a test or testing was otherwise not performed, the prosecution can rely on an officer’s observations. For example, a police officer may testify that a driver had bloodshot, watery eyes, had slurred speech, and was unsteady on his or her feet. Many of these subjective factors can be challenged by an experienced Raleigh DWI lawyer, as well as the reliability of the breathalyzer itself.
What are the six levels of DWI offenses in Raleigh, NC?
In North Carolina, police, prosecutors, and judges take drunk driving crimes very seriously. While the official term for drunk driving is “driving while impaired,” or DWI, many people also refer to these crimes as DUIs. However, there is no distinction between these two terms in North Carolina.
State law divides North Carolina DWI sentencing into six levels. Sentencing in DWI cases is complicated, and no one should attempt to navigate the complexities of DWI sentencing without an experienced DWI attorney. See our detailed DWI sentencing guide for a detailed analysis.
Aggravated Level I DWI Offenses
Aggravated Level I offenses are the most serious Raleigh DWI crimes, punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Level I DWI Offenses
Level I offenses are punishable by up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $4,000. A Level I DWI carries a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail, with certain exceptions.
Level II DWI Offenses
Level II DUI charges carry a minimum term of imprisonment of seven days and a maximum of up to one year, as well as a fine of up to $2,000.
Level III DWI Offenses
Level III DUI crimes are punishable by a minimum of 72 hours in jail or 72 hours of community service, and a maximum of six months in jail. In addition, these offenses carry a fine of up to a $1,000.
Level IV DWI Offenses
A Level II DUI conviction can result in a term of imprisonment between 48 hours and 120 days, as well as a fine of up to $500. A judge can impose either community service (minimum of 48 hours) or jail time in a Level II DWI.
Level V DWI Offenses
Level IV DUI crimes carry a sentence of 24 hours in jail to a maximum of 60 days.
How does the court decide the DWI level in North Carolina?
The court will weigh grossly aggravating factors, regular aggravating factors, and mitigating factors when determining which level of offense a person will face. Among others, grossly aggravating factors and other aggravating factors include facts such as:
- Causing an accident resulting in serious injury;
- Carrying a minor passenger;
- Driving on a DWI-revoked license;
- Having a BAC of .15 or higher;
- Having a prior DWI conviction within the past seven years;
- Eluding police; and
- Reckless driving.
Mitigating circumstances are those facts that may reduce a driver’s culpability, including:
- Having a BAC of .09 or less;
- Completion of substance abuse treatment;
- Showing that the drug causing intoxication was prescribed; and
- Showing that the person’s driving was reasonably safe.
One of the most common misconceptions about a DUI case is that once you are arrested, there is nothing you can do to defend against the charges. This is not the case. A Raleigh DWI attorney can effectively challenge numerous aspects of the prosecution’s case. For example, police officers need to establish reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop a vehicle under suspicion of DUI. Additionally, they must present evidence that there was a reason to order chemical testing. If police and prosecutors cannot meet this burden, a Raleigh DUI attorney may be able to get your case thrown out.
Working with a Raleigh DWI attorney is critical in DUI cases, as they can be very complicated. Not only do these cases involve complex legal principles, but they may also require you to present an expert witness to testify on your behalf, especially in cases involving blood or breath testing. Attorney Benjamin Hiltzheimer has effectively represented clients facing Raleigh DWI offenses for well over a decade and knows how to create a compelling defense to even the toughest cases.
What are the top Defenses for DWI Cases in nC?
Too often, those who are arrested and charged with a DWI crime assume that there is no hope. However, that is not the case. North Carolina DWI law is incredibly complex, and police officers and prosecutors have to follow strict procedures at every step of the process to prove a case. That said, there are ample defenses in DWI cases, including:
- A motion to suppress – One of the most common defenses in a Raleigh DWI case is a motion to suppress. In a motion to suppress, the defendant argues that certain evidence, often either the results of a chemical test or the officer’s observations, should not be admitted at trial because the evidence was obtained in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights. For example, police officers need either reasonable suspicion or probable cause to pull over a vehicle. If the government cannot prove that a traffic stop was justified, any evidence recovered from the stop must be suppressed.
- Sufficiency of the evidence – When a defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, they are arguing that the prosecution failed to establish each of the necessary elements of the crime. For example, in a Raleigh DWI accident case, often the driver of the vehicle is out of the car when the police arrive. In this situation, without a witness, it may be challenging for the prosecution to put the defendant behind the wheel of the car. Similarly, in cases involving only an officer’s observations, a defendant may argue that what the officer mistook for intoxication was actually caused by something else, such as a medical condition or a lack of sleep.
- Challenges to chemical tests – In DWI cases involving chemical tests, there may be ways to challenge the accuracy and admissibility of the test results. For example, was the device used to run the test properly calibrated? Was the sample taken within the appropriate amount of time? Can the prosecution establish chain-of-custody over the defendant’s sample? These are all critical questions that must be asked.
The bottom line is that there are many ways to defend against a North Carolina DWI charge. If you have a drunk driving case, do not assume that you won’t be able to fight it. Contact an experienced Raleigh DUI lawyer who can answer your questions and fight for you.
Reach Out to a Dedicated Raleigh DWI Attorney TODAY
At Hiltzheimer Law Office, PLLC, we built a reputation from the ground up for fighting complicated DWI cases in Raleigh and throughout the triangle. Our proven Raleigh DWI lawyer takes on cases that other lawyers shy away from, and have a record of results in State District and Superior Courts in front of judges and juries. If you’ve been charged with a DWI — whether it’s a first, second, or third DWI — we have the experience and skill to advocate on your behalf. Our highly-skilled Raleigh DWI defense lawyers have litigated DWI charges with just about every fact pattern you can imagine. We make a point of staying up-to-date on the relevant law and research so we are always armed with the most current strategies available to challenge everything from breathalyzer and blood test results to field sobriety tests and the various constitutional issues that often arise in Driving While Impaired cases. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, call us or reach us through our online form.
Hiltzheimer Law Office, PLLC
19 W Hargett St #508
Raleigh, NC 27601