Everyone knows that when charged with Driving While Intoxicated or Driving Under the Influence the State must prove several elements 'beyond a reasonable doubt' in order to obtain a conviction. In North Carolina, those elements are 1. Driving, 2. On a street, highway or 'Public Vehicular Area,' and 3. Either: a. a blood/alcohol level of .08 or above, or b. 'appreciable impairment.' Sadly, what many people do not realize is what OTHER factors surrounding a Defendant's North Carolina DWI Sentencing Level can impact their case. As a Raleigh DWI Lawyer and Durham DWI Lawyer, I have seen many of my clients taken back to find out that other things can have substantial negative impacts on the outcome of the DWI case. One of these 'other things' that recently changed in North Carolina DWI Law .
As of December 1, 2011, North Carolina General Statute 20-179, which is the law governing DWI sentences in North Carolina had changes made to it. These changes were named Laura’s Law after a young lady who tragically lost her life as a due to a Drunk Driver. One of the most significant changes deals with a particular Grossly Aggravating Factor. You see, Grossly Aggravating Factors are North Carolina DWI Sentence considerations involving the Defendant which, if shown, will mean that a Defendant will face a sentencing level of either Level 2, Level 1, or the new Aggravated Level 1. The Grossly Aggravating Factors are: a prior DWI conviction within the last 7 years, the Defendant's license was revoked at the time of the DWI and the revocation was due to a prior DWI, serious bodily injury as a result of the DWI or having someone under the age of 18 in the vehicle at the time of the DWI. This last Aggravating Factor used to be anyone below the age of 16, but as of December 1, 2011, it is now anyone under the age of 18. In addition to this change, it used to be that one Grossly Aggravating Factor would mean a sentence at Level 2 (the lowest of the three levels when Grossly Aggravating Factors are involved). Two Aggravating Factors means a sentence of level 1, and three or more means a sentence Level of Aggravated level 1. However, the law was changed with regards to underage passengers during a DWI stop.
The law now states that anyone with a passenger under the age of 18 at the time of the DWI will automatically be sentenced at a level 1 (even if there are no other Grossly Aggravating Factors). In cases that involve adults driving with children in the car, this change may make sense. However, due to the age increase from 'under 16' to 'under 18' the likelihood of a teenage driver facing a potential Level 1 sentence because they were busted for a DWI with a passenger under the age of 18 has increased substantially.
To put it plainly, a Teenager who is drinking and driving with friends in the car under the age of 18, who is busted on their first DWI, will face a Level 1 Sentence, which has a Mandatory 30 days in jail as a part of the sentence, regardless of their record.
This should trouble many parents out there as their teenagers may not realize the ramifications of a potential DWI bust under these circumstances. Aside from the inherent dangers of anyone driving while intoxicated, let alone a teenager, the fact that these young people could face 30 days in jail on a first offense should be sobering.
If you've read this article, hopefully you will inform anyone you know who is a teenager or who has teenagers about this risk.
If you have received a DWI in North Carolina, speak with a local DWI attorney in your area about how to best defend your case.
Disclaimer - Information and advice offered in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and is specific to North Carolina law. The viewing, receipt and/or exchange of information from this article does not constitute an Attorney-Client Relationship. For assistance regarding your particular legal question speak with an Attorney practicing in the field from which your questions derives.