DWIs in North Carolina: A history of tough policy

Penalties for drunk driving in North Carolina are harsh. Those who face false allegations should take the charges seriously and build a strong defense.

A quick review of North Carolina's Department of Public Safety website makes it clear that the state prides itself on being tough on driving while impaired (DWI) violations. The agency points out how the state already had one of the "strictest drinking and driving statutes" in the country back in 1999. In an effort to further toughen these laws, the Governor's DWI initiative resulted in even more strict regulations. This included seizing and selling the vehicles of those who were convicted of more than one DWI offense and taking away the privilege to drive for others.

The state has continued with this practice, passing additional legislation to further increase the penalties associated with these charges. Two recent examples include an increase in the penalties allowed if the accused had a child in the vehicle that was under the age of sixteen at the time of the stop and a decrease in the allowed blood alcohol concentration for those who face charges of a repeat offense.

Although keeping the roadways safe is important, there are times when attempts to keep drunk drivers off the roads go too far. Three examples include:

  • Improper stop. Officers that are stopping a vehicle must follow proper protocol. They cannot simply stop any vehicle on the road for no reason at all. A stop must be justified by probable cause. Examples of probable cause could include erratic driving like speeding, driving too slowly or not staying within the traffic lane.
  • Inaccurate test. There are a number of different tests an enforcement officer may conduct in an attempt to determine if the driver is intoxicated. These can include a field sobriety test, breathalyzer or blood alcohol concentration test. False results can occur if the test is not preformed properly or if the materials used to conduct the test are not in good working order. In these cases, the evidence gathered due to the results of the test may be inadmissible in court.
  • Improper police actions. In some cases, the actions taken by the officer making the stop may be so egregious they rise to the level of improper behavior. This could include falsifying a DWI report or blatantly violating a driver's basic civil rights.

These are just three of the many examples of defenses to consider when charged with a DWI in North Carolina. As such, it is wise for those who are facing these charges to seek legal counsel. An experienced defense attorney can review the details of your case and tailor a defense strategy to better ensure your rights are protected.