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What Makes a North Carolina DWI Worse? Aggravating Factors Explained

In North Carolina, some DWIs are more serious than others. The manner in which criminal courts determine the severity of a particular DWI largely rests on the presence of aggravating factors. These are elements that heighten penalties for defendants in the Tar Heel State. It makes sense to not only become aware of the aggravating factors that may be associated with a DWI but also to develop defense strategies that specifically target these elements.

Prior Offenses

Perhaps the most notable aggravating factor in a North Carolina DWI offense is the presence of previous convictions on your record. If you commit numerous DWIs within the space of a few years, North Carolina considers you to be a “repeat offender.” This offense is also known as “habitual impaired driving.” Second, third, and subsequent offenses are considered to be much more serious than first offenses – even if no one was hurt. The lookback period can be as great as seven years.

Child Endangerment

While not an aggravating factor per se, child endangerment is nonetheless a crime that is often prosecuted alongside a DWI in North Carolina. It has the potential to make legal consequences much worse. If you have a child in your vehicle at the time of your alleged DWI offense, you may face this charge. Each child in the vehicle may represent a separate count of child endangerment, and this has the potential to lead to serious penalties.

Causing Injuries

If you were involved in a crash with fatal or serious injuries and you are accused of being intoxicated at the time of the collision, you may face much more serious penalties. Generally speaking, this situation makes a DWI a felony instead of a misdemeanor. Crashes involving deaths typically lead to more severe penalties compared to crashes involving survivable injuries. The situation may become even more serious if you have a prior DWI on your record and your crash involved a fatality.

Leaving the Scene

Commonly referred to as a “hit-and-run,” leaving the scene of a crash will also lead to more serious penalties for DWI defendants. While it might be difficult for prosecutors to prove that you were intoxicated at the time of the crash, leaving the scene of an accident is self-evident. In some cases, leaving the scene of a crash can be prosecuted as a felony.

Gross Impairment

Another example of an aggravating factor in a North Carolina DWI is something called “gross impairment.” This is when the defendant’s alleged BAC level is significantly higher than 0.08. If it becomes clear that the BAC level is multiple times higher than the legal limit, prosecutors may push for sentences that are more severe compared to a “typical” DWI.

Find a DWI Defense Attorney in North Carolina

If you have been searching for a qualified DWI attorney in North Carolina, look no further than Coastal South Law. We know that aggravating factors can be difficult to understand as you face DWI charges. During a consultation, we can go over the specifics of your alleged offense in more detail – including any potential aggravating factors. Not only that, but we can also begin developing a defense strategy that takes these specific factors into account. Book your consultation today to begin the process.

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