Jacksonville DWI Lawyer

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Jacksonville DWI Lawyer

Jacksonville, NC DWI Attorney

The law takes drunk driving seriously, and any new laws that are passed are intended to further punish and restrict it. The consequences of a drunk driving incident could be serious, but a Jacksonville, NC, DWI lawyer can help you work to reduce or avoid them.

In an attempt to curb the likelihood of an accident happening, the state government has enacted severe penalties for driving while impaired. In particular, repeat offenders are punished harshly. These penalties, depending on the specifics of the offense, can potentially include significant jail or prison time. However, even lighter penalties will likely include a license suspension, which can make activities like getting to work or picking up groceries a challenge.

Silva, Kiernan & Associates, PLLC: Your Jacksonville, NC, DWI Attorneys

Many people lose hope when they are charged with DWI and think that there’s no way for them to avoid a conviction and its associated penalties. However, it’s important not to resign yourself to this fate. There are many ways that a DWI can be successfully challenged

To give yourself a proper defense against these charges, you want to be sure that you have a Jacksonville DWI lawyer who understands the applicable laws and has experience in dealing with them in court. At Silva, Kiernan & Associates, PLLC, as former prosecutors and now criminal defense lawyers, we have experience on both sides of these laws and understand how to give our clients a fair chance of avoiding a conviction.

What Is a DWI/DUI in Onslow County?

There are a few different violations that could lead to DWI charges in Onslow County and the rest of North Carolina. In most cases, though, a DWI will be determined based on a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

Many drivers wonder if they can refuse a BAC test, but that cannot be done legally without serious ramifications in Jacksonville. North Carolina is what’s referred to as an “implied consent” state. This means that, by making use of public roads, you are consenting to take a chemical test if an officer has reasonable suspicion that you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Refusing to take a test can result in stiff penalties, so, in most situations, it is not worth it.

The thresholds for being charged with a DWI are:

  • A BAC of 0.08% is the standard for any drivers who are 21 years of age and older.
  • A reduced BAC of 0.04% applies to anyone who is operating a commercial vehicle.
  • If a driver is under the age of 21, North Carolina has a zero-tolerance policy. This means that any presence of a drug or alcohol in the driver’s system will result in Drive After Consuming charges.
  • Any presence of a narcotic in a driver’s system could result in DWI charges.
  • If an officer believes that a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle is inhibited by intoxication, it could result in a DWI charge, regardless of the individual’s BAC.

If you are charged with a DWI, then your vehicle may immediately be impounded for 10 days, and your driving privileges will likely be suspended for 30 days until there is a pre-trial hearing. It’s possible that your attorney may be able to petition for some kind of limited driving privileges before the full 30 days are completed. However, they cannot do so before 10 days. You will also be required to pay fees to get your vehicle released from impound.

What Are the Penalties for a DWI/DUI in North Carolina?

Although a part of traffic law, DWIs can carry significant penalties. North Carolina’s sentencing system can be complicated to understand. There are six levels of potential penalties, with Level 5 being the least severe and Aggravated Level 1 being the most severe. Where exactly a particular offense will fall depends on the presence of mitigating factors, aggravating factors, and grossly aggravating factors. The six levels of potential penalties are:

  • Level 5 – A minimum jail time of two days or 48 hours of community service and a fine of up to $200
  • Level 4 – A minimum jail time of two days or 48 hours of community service and a fine of up to $500
  • Level 3 – A minimum jail time of three days or 72 hours of community service and a fine of up to $500
  • Level 2 – Jail time between seven days and one year with a fine of up to $2000
  • Level 1 – Jail time between 30 days and two years with a fine of up to $4000
  • Level 1 Aggravated – Jail time between one and three years with a fine of up to $10,000

Grossly aggravating factors will have the most significant effect on the sentencing level that is applied. The judge in the case must feel, beyond a reasonable doubt, that these factors are present for them to be considered. The effects of grossly aggravating factors is an increase in the charge to:

  • Level 2 if one grossly aggravating factor is present.
  • Level 1 if two grossly aggravating factors are present.
  • Level 1 Aggravated if three or more grossly aggravating factors are present.

Those factors which are considered grossly aggravating are:

  • Seriously injuring someone else
  • A prior DWI conviction within the last seven years
  • A DWI while driving privileges are still suspended from a prior DWI
  • A child under 18 was present in the car at the time of the DWI

Much like with the grossly aggravating factors, a judge will need to be certain, beyond a reasonable doubt, of the presence of mitigating and aggravating factors before figuring them into their sentencing decision. The sentencing effect of these factors is either an increase or decrease of the charge to:

  • Level 3 if the judge believes that the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating factors.
  • Level 5 if the judge believes the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating factors.
  • Level 4 if there are no mitigating or aggravating factors or if a judge believes that the two sides are in balance.

Aggravating factors that will be considered are:

  • A BAC of 0.15% or greater
  • License revocation at the time of the DWI
  • Prior DWI convictions
  • Reckless driving
  • Causing an accident
  • Driving 30 mph over the speed limit or more
  • Speeding to elude a police officer
  • Illegally passing a school bus

Mitigating factors that will be considered are:

  • BAC below 0.09%
  • Safe driving record
  • No BAC test is available, and only a slight impairment
  • Voluntary submission for a mental health assessment
  • Impairment from a properly taken prescription medication
  • Otherwise lawful operation of the vehicle

Subsequent DWI convictions within seven years will carry harsher penalties. For instance, no matter what level of sentencing, a second DWI will carry a minimum jail sentence of seven days and a license suspension of one to four years. A third offense will require a minimum of 14 to 30 days in jail and up to two years. It also carries a minimum one-year license suspension and could result in a permanently suspended license if the prior DWI was within the previous five years.

What Does a Jacksonville DWI Lawyer Do for Clients?

Working with an Onslow County drunk driving defense attorney is critical to establishing a formidable defense. We understand the full extent of the charges against you and their consequences. We also have a deep understanding of the laws involved and the many ways that a DWI charge can be challenged. Getting competent, thorough, and aggressive legal help is critical to giving yourself a chance to avoid the most severe penalties of your charges.

Investigate Your Case

We often begin with an in-depth investigation of the circumstances surrounding your DWI charge. This is critical because it may reveal some of the ways in which the officer could have failed to follow proper procedure:

  • They could have lacked sufficient cause to pull you over.
  • The tests could have been administered improperly.
  • The proper chain of handling evidence may not have been followed.

Those are only a handful of the many circumstances that we look for to use in your defense.

Consider the Prosecution’s Approach

When developing your defense, it’s critical that we consider how the prosecutor will approach the case. This is something we are particularly adept at here at Silva, Kiernan & Associates, PLLC, having been on that side of the process in the past. We can recognize the approach that the prosecution is likely to take and can prepare to challenge the weak points in their claims.

We do not need to prove your innocence but rather create a reasonable doubt about your guilt. When we think about the prosecution’s case, we are looking for anything that can create a sense of doubt. The burden of proof is on the prosecution, so if we can convince the jury that they do not have a strong case against you, they must rule that you are not guilty.

Engage in Pre-Trial Procedures

Before the trial even begins, our defense of you starts. At pre-trial hearings and in pre-trial motions, we seek to get the case thrown out if there is sufficient ground. We may be able to attack the validity of some of the prosecution’s evidence to see if it may be ruled as impermissible. In some circumstances, a favorable ruling on this could cripple the prosecution’s case and lead to a withdrawal of the charges.

Represent You in Court

If the case does go to court, we can act as your representation and advocates. We can put forth the strongest defense that the evidence offers. We can represent you right up through a possible sentencing, where we can make the case for lighter sentencing based on mitigating circumstances. If there’s room for a possible appeal, we can even represent you through that as well.

DWI/DUI Defense

At Silva, Kiernan & Associates, PLLC, we pride ourselves in effective and aggressive DWI defense. Whether you are facing the uncertain situation of a first DWI charge or the frightening possibility of an additional DWI conviction, we are here to help create a unique and customized defense. Every case is different, and we investigate every aspect of your case in order to develop a strategy for your case. Our partners and attorneys have handled thousands of DWI cases, both on behalf of the State of North Carolina as prosecutors and on behalf of our clients as defense attorneys.

If you have been charged with a DWI in the Fifth Prosecutorial District (Onslow, Duplin, Jones, or Sampson Counties), please contact our firm as soon as possible. As each day passes, you may lose certain opportunities to have your license returned to you. In addition, if your vehicle or property were seized, you maylose your opportunity to have these items returned. You cannot afford to wait until the last moment to hire an attorney, and we are standing by to help you.

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