Ordinarily, driving while impaired in North Carolina is a misdemeanor offense. There are exceptions to the general rule, especially in instances where a fatality results from the DUI or when there are multiple prior convictions, resulting in an indictment for habitual DWI charges.
Habitual driving while impaired is a felony offense in North Carolina. It takes into consideration prior convictions of DWI within a ten (10) year “look back” period from the date of offense on a new, pending DWI charge.
Habitual DWI differs from the misdemeanor “Laura’s Law” level A1 DWI in several different ways.
A level A1 DWI is a misdemeanor charge that does not result in the same level of revocation or suspension of a North Carolina Driver’s License.
Presently, after a conviction of felony habitual DWI in North Carolina there is no administrative or court process to obtain a valid driver’s license. In that instance, a “permanent revocation” is in fact permanent.
Misdemeanor DWI charges, consistent with N.C.G.S. 20-179, consider more than just prior convictions for driving under the influence.
Habitual DWI charges look to offense dates and prior convictions. Laura’s Law also considers other ‘grossly aggravating factors.’ In some instances, a Level A1 DWI carries more substantial prison time than even felony DWI – John Faneny, Raleigh DWI Lawyer
What is Habitual DWI?
Indictment as a habitual felon in North Carolina differs from felony, habitual DWI.
The State of North Carolina is required to prove each and every element of the offense to the legal standard of Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.
The Defendant (the person facing criminal charges) has no burden of proof or production. The fact that the Defendant has even been accused of a crime is not evidence of guilt.
The Defendant’s decision not to present evidence or testify on his or her own behalf cannot be used against them as evidence of guilt.
The State’s burden to make out a prima facie case necessarily demands evidence that:
- The defendant is guilty of the currently pending DWI charge, consistent with N.C.G.S. 20-138.1
- The defendant has 3 or more prior convictions of driving while impaired
- That such prior convictions are all within ten years of the offense date of the new, currently pending DWI
- That the prior convictions involve similar conduct consistent with N.C.G.S. 20-4.01(24a)
Habitual felon “status” in many states involve “three strikes” laws. In North Carolina, Habitual DWI charges require three prior convictions AND the conviction of a fourth DWI within 10 years of one another.
One would be remiss in failing to note that driving while impaired may serve as a predicate offense for other felony charges, such as Second Degree Murder and Felony Death by Vehicle.
As such, there is an important distinction between habitual driving while impaired, a felony, and other impaired driving-related offenses that include some aspect of DWI as part of deliberations.
N.C.G.S. 20-4.01(24a) – Prior Convictions for Impaired Driving
Chapter 20-4.01(24a) sets forth, in very broad, expansive terms, what is deemed a “conviction” for DWI. Prior convictions may include offenses in states other than North Carolina.
Therefore, convictions for DUI (driving under the influence), OWI (operating while impaired), operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs, operating a vehicle ability impaired, etc., if found to be substantially similar to North Carolina’s definition of driving while impaired, may be included in a prima facie showing.
Topics of Interest: DWI Charges
- DWI Defense
- Revocation of License
- Portable Breath Test PBT
- DWI Breath Tests
- Serious Injury by Vehicle
- 7 Reasons Why You Need a DUI Lawyer
Raleigh Criminal Defense Lawyers: Fanney Law Firm
If you face allegations of driving while impaired or have been indicted for habitual DWI charges in Raleigh, it’s imperative you speak with an experienced attorney without delay.
Exercise the Right to Remain Silent and ask to speak with an attorney. Be advised, many if not most telephone and other electronic communications that take place in and/or from the Wake County Jail are recorded.
Private phone conversations are not protected. We believe it best to secure legal representation without delay, thereby establishing an attorney-client privilege.
If you Googled, “DWI lawyers near me Raleigh NC,” John Fanney is available for an immediate consultation. Everything you tell our professional legal staff is confidential. We charge nothing for legal consultations involving driving while impaired and other criminal matters.