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What is “Appreciable Impairment?”

Usually, when we think of the rules for avoiding a DWI, we think about keeping our blood alcohol concentration (BAC) below .08. While it’s true that having a .08 or higher BAC is de facto evidence of a DWI, there are other bases as well. Many people are unaware that they can get a DWI even if their BAC is below a .08, and even if they do not have any alcohol in their system at all. In this article, we will review the three bases for DWI charges in North Carolina. The information in this article is intended to be general. However, if you would prefer to receive personalized feedback based on your unique case, you are welcome to contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Coastal South Law to schedule a consultation.

What are the Three Bases for DWI in North Carolina?

As noted above, there are three bases for DWI in North Carolina, and only one of them is a BAC of .08 or higher. It is important to remember that DWI differs from DUI. DUI stands for driving under the influence of alcohol, while DWI stands for driving while impaired. DWI does not restrict the cause of impairment to alcohol. Rather, anything that impairs a driver and makes their driving less safe than it would be otherwise, can be the basis for a DWI charge. This includes legally obtained prescription medication and over-the-counter medications and substances as well.

  • The driver had any amount of a schedule 1 drug in their system;

  • The driver had a BAC of .08 or greater; or

  • The driver consumed an impairing substance such that their body or mental faculties were appreciably impaired while driving.

What is Appreciable Impairment?

So what is appreciable impairment? That is not 100% clear. Rather, there is not a well defined standard for it. It is somewhere between normal and gross conduct. In short, appreciable impairment can be said to be impaired enough to be noticeable and measurable. As a result of this law, reckless or erratic driving can be a basis for DWI, particularly if it is paired with any circumstantial evidence to suggest the ingestion or presence of impairing substances. As you can imagine, these charges are often highly subjective and also off base. There can be a number of reasons for a person to drive temporarily erratically that have nothing to do with impairing substances. If you have been charged with a DWI on the basis of an officer’s subjective assessments about you, you have a strong basis to fight it. However, regardless of which of these bases were used to charge you, it can be challenged. The key is to start working with an attorney as soon as possible who can assess your case and start fighting to make sure that your rights are protected throughout the entire trial experience.

Schedule a Consultation With Coastal South Law

If you are facing DWI charges in North Carolina, the time to act is now. Contact the experienced criminal defense lawyers at Coastal South Law and schedule a consultation today to find out how they can help fight for the best possible outcome in your DWI case.

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