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Each year, thousands of motorists are cited for Impaired Driving (“DWI”) here in North Carolina. And year after year, the Legislature passes new laws that not only make it easier to convict those motorists, but also to increase their punishments.
WHAT IS IMPAIRED DRIVING?
Commonly referred to as Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Impaired (DWI), North Carolina law criminalizes impaired driving under NC General Statute § 20 – 138.1. Under that law, the State is required to prove 4 elements before it may convict someone of impaired driving.
The first element is Driving. The State must prove that the Defendant drove. The Courts have ruled that Driving includes Operating, so just sitting in a car with the keys in the ignition may be enough to prove this element.
The second element is a vehicle. The State must prove the person charged with Impaired Driving was operating a vehicle. A vehicle is defined by law, but includes cars, trucks, mopeds, golf carts and even a bicycle. Only a horse is safe, assuming the horse is not impaired.
UPON STREETS / HIGHWAYS/ PVA'S:
The third element is that the driving of the vehicle took place on the streets, highways, or a Public Vehicular Area (“PVA”). A PVA includes parking lots, gas stations, and certain “cut throughs” regularly used for vehicular traffic.
The final element is impairment. Here, the State has three different options to prove impairment. These methods are explained below.
WHAT IS IMPAIRMENT IN NC?
NC’s Impaired Driving law provides the State with 3 different methods of proving the impairment element.
The first two methods require a blood or breath analysis. The State will usually, but not always, have an expert witness testify about the results of these analyses. The two methods are:
A Blood or Urine test that shows the driver has any amount of a Schedule I Controlled Substance in their system at the time of Driving.
A blood or Breath test that shows the driver has a blood-alcohol concentration at or above 0.08 at “a relevant time after driving.”
To prove either of these, the state must admit a blood, breath, and or urine analysis. There are many rules governing the admissibility of these tests. An experienced DWI Attorney will help guide you through them to protect your rights.
APPRECIABLE IMPAIRMENT IN NC:
The third and final method or proving impairment is called “Appreciable Impairment.” This is a fancy way of saying that a person was visually impaired, based on the loss of that person’s mental and/or physical faculties.
This method is only proven through the testimony of the law enforcement officer about a person’s behavior, statements, and performance on field sobriety tests. Again, an experienced DWI Lawyer can sometimes poke holes in the Officer’s testimony to protect your rights.
One alarming trend recently is charged a motorist with a DWI for prescription medication. Gone are the days where drunk driving was only about alcohol. Now a motorist could be convicted for driving while impaired after a prescribed dosage of a prescription medication like Xanax.
A conviction for impaired driving can have very serious consequences, including imprisonment of up to three years! Check out our blog posts below to learn even more about Impaired Driving and how we may be able to help defend a drunk driving charge.