DWI vs. DUI in NC: What’s the Difference?

FAQs / Traffic Violations / 11.11.2016

In regard to driving a vehicle while under the influence, you have probably heard people use both DWI and DUI to describe this crime. But what exactly is the difference between the two? DWI stands for Driving While Impaired, and DUI means Driving Under the Influence. Although you might have heard both terms used, the state of North Carolina does not make a distinction between them.

Our state laws have a zero tolerance policy for this illegal act. Therefore, North Carolina mandates that any case in which the BAC level of the driver is over the legal limit is considered a crime and classified as a DWI. Being charged with a DWI usually denotes a higher crime on the scale than if you were charged with a DUI. However, the North Carolina’s Safe Roads Act of 1983 put an end to the previous distinction between the two charges and put everything under a single offence–DWI.

What determines a DWI?

The biggest determining factor for whether or not you will receive a DWI depends on your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level. If the driver is over the age of 21 years old and has a BAC of 0.08% or higher, he or she will be charged with a DWI. Meanwhile, any level of alcohol intake for drivers under 21 can result in a DWI. Commercial drivers and those who have already been charged with a previous DWI have a different standard of 0.04%.

If you’ve been pulled over for erratic driving, an officer may also choose to have you participate in a field sobriety test. These particular tests will assess the driver’s physical and mental capabilities by walking a straight line, standing on one leg, conducting a speech test, etc. After an observation of these tests, the officer will most likely ask the driver to take a chemical test to confirm whether the driver is in fact under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

What Offenses Are Classified as a DWI? 

North Carolina laws do not limit a DWI to only driving under the influence. In addition to that, there are various other acts that can result in a DWI, such as: having an open container in the vehicle, having an open or closed container on the passenger side of a commercial vehicle, or helping a minor obtain alcohol in some sort of way.

What Are the Penalties?

Receiving a DWI charge is serious business in North Carolina and can result in equally serious penalties. Consequences of this offence can include heavy fines and fees, license suspension or revocation, community service, increased insurance rates, and possibly mandatory jail time.

We Can Help.

Violating this severe law can result in overwhelming feelings and fears. The penalties can feel daunting and the process might seem ceaseless. The first step in tackling this process is to hire an experience lawyer who specializes in these particular cases. We recommend taking this step as soon as possible. The quicker you have legal representation, the smoother and less daunting the process will be.

Our lawyers at Wentz Law have represented a number of clients who have been charged with DWIs. Due to our high level of experience in this field, we can help you get as close to the minimum penalties as possible. Our negotiating skills, knowledge of North Carolina law, and professional credibility allows us to advocate on your behalf, creating a less stressful environment for this unfortunate situation. There is absolutely no reason you should go through this alone. Contact us today for a consultation—we’re here to help.

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