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North Carolina Jury Convicts Bolivia Man of Habitual DWI

In one of the first jury trials held following the long hiatus on in-person trials due to COVID-19 protocols, a Brunswick County jury convicted Steven Rouse of habitual driving while impaired earlier this week. In North Carolina, habitual DWI is a felony that requires three prior DWI convictions of a similar nature within a 10-year period.

According to records, Rouse’s fourth conviction in 10 years occurred in November of 2019, when he crashed his truck into a ditch in Bolivia off of Mill Creek Road. A bystander who witnessed the wreck quickly responded to the scene and saw Rouse in the driver’s seat of the truck. However, Rouse then fled the scene, disappearing into the nearby woods. The Brunswick County Sheriff's Office used their K-9 unit to track Rouse into the forest, where they eventually found him hiding behind a bush. The officers administered a field sobriety test and determined Rouse to be intoxicated. This was later confirmed by a blood alcohol test conducted at a lab, which showed that Rouse’s blood alcohol level was .22, nearly triple the legal limit.

The District Attorney’s Office stated that Rouse admitted his status as a habitual felon. The judge then sentenced Rouse to at least 11 years in prison. Rouse must now serve his sentence for habitual DWI before beginning to serve his sentence on the fourth DWI conviction. According to those familiar with the matter, he can expect to serve approximately 26 - 41 months on each of the convictions.

Habitual DWI in North Carolina

Habitual DWI in North Carolina differs from other more common DWI charges in that it is a felony, which carries very serious penalties and consequences. Additionally, as you may have noticed in the case above, it carries its own sentence, apart from the one you will need to serve on the DWI that triggered it. It is more relaxed in one sense, however, than similar laws in other states. In most states, laws of this nature are called “three strike” laws, where three misdemeanors or crimes of a certain level or nature (depending on the state) can trigger a felony conviction. The idea is that three convictions of this nature demonstrate a pattern of criminal behavior that must be intercepted. North Carolina’s law technically gives four strikes, as you must have already been convicted three times of DWI in order for a fourth conviction within the same 10-year period to trigger a felony charge.

Penalties for Habitual DWI in North Carolina

In North Carolina, a habitual DWI conviction carries a mandatory sentence of at least 12 months that cannot be suspended, and the sentence must be run consecutively (as opposed to concurrently) with the sentence for the triggering DWI as well as any other sentences being served.

Additionally, the convicted individual’s license and driving privileges will be permanently revoked with no way to appeal or regain them in the future. The vehicle the individual was driving also becomes property of the state in most circumstances, however, there are some exceptions. For instance, if someone lent the convicted person their car with no knowledge of the individual’s prior DWI charges or if the vehicle was taken or borrowed without the owner’s knowledge or permission. In these two instances, the vehicle can be returned to the rightful owner.

Contact a North Carolina Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have been charged with DWI in North Carolina, it’s important to seek experienced legal counsel as soon as possible to avoid bigger consequences later on. Contact the Southeast, NC Criminal Defense Lawyers at Coastal South Law today, and schedule a consultation.

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