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DWI Defense Attorneys

We know that this is one of the most stressful times of your life. You don't know where to turn and you likely feel apprehensive about your legal options. Hatley Law Office will work to reduce or eliminate the damage a DWI can cause. Contact us today so that we can help take this weight off your shoulders. Together, we will walk through the next steps, develop a comprehensive strategy, and build the best defense available. We know North Carolina's laws and fully understand what officers of the court must do throughout the DWI process. We can spot strengths and weaknesses in your case. Based on these details, we can take it to trial if necessary and fight to to have you found not guilty.

Call now, and get back your peace of mind*

North Carolina Driving While Impaired Defense LawyersWhen you hire Hatley Law Office, you hire a team of attorneys ready to aggressively defend your rights.

Why Choose Hatley Law Office for your DWI?

The Stakes Are High

Given the risk, it is imperative that you have an attorney who knows how to defend you. The State will have a team of experts assigned to your case, but you are not powerless. You don’t have to go it alone when we’re here to help. Our team’s high level of knowledge regarding all pre and post arrest issues ensures that the State is forced to meet its burden in every way required by law. Our comprehensive investigation, personal attention, and aggressive representation will seek ensure you the best possible outcome. We are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure your interests are fully protected.

We can assist you in navigating the DWI process and seek to obtain the best possible outcome for you. It will be necessary to speak with you personally concerning the events surrounding your arrest. After speaking with you, I will be able to provide you with an assessment of your case and an estimate of the cost to represent you. The initial telephone conference is free.
—Attorney Tyler Benson, Hatley Law Office Lead DWI Division
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Important Issues You Should Be Prepared to Discuss With A DWI Attorney:

  • Why did the officer say he pulled you over?
  • Did you have a valid license at the time?
  • Have you ever been convicted of DWI before?
  • Was the stop part of a checkpoint?
  • Where did the stop occur?
  • Was there an accident?  If other vehicles were involved:
    • Was anyone injured?
    • How much was the property damage to each vehicle?
  • Was there anyone in the car with you?  If so:
    • What were their ages?  
    • Do they have any mental or physical impairments?
  • Did you admit to drinking or make any other statements to the officer?
  • Did you perform any field sobriety tests? Mainly:
    • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) eye test
    • Walk and Turn (WAT)
    • One Leg Stand (OLS)
  • Did you take a roadside Portable Breath Test (PBT)? What was the result?
  • Did you take an Intoxilyzer breath Test?  What was the result?
  • Were you notified of your rights before taking an Intoxilyzer breath  test?
  • Did you call for someone to witness the intoxilyzer breath test?
  • Was blood drawn from you?

Call us today for a free consultation with one of our NC DWI attorneys. 919-200-0822.

North Carolina Driving While Impaired Defense LawyersWhen you hire Hatley Law Office, you hire a team of attorneys ready to aggressively defend your rights.

Driving While Impaired (DWI) Frequently Asked Questions in North Carolina

What is a Driving While Impaired (DWI) offense in NC?

“Driving While Impaired” or “DWI” is the type of charge given for operating a motor vehicle while under the impairing influence of an intoxicating substance. Previously, this charge was known as Driving Under the Influence (DUI.) A person can be charged with a DWI if they are caught operating a motor vehicle on a public street, highway, or public vehicular area with a BAC of 0.08% or more, or while the individual is otherwise substantially impaired by drugs or alcohol.

What is the legal Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) in NC?

In NC, a BAC of 0.08% is the legal limit. This is the legal limit throughout most of the country. While the words “legal limit” may give the impression that it is “legal” to drive with a BAC of 0.08%, this is not correct. Your BAC cannot exceed 0.07%, and in some instances a person may actually be impaired at a BAC of less than 0.08%.

What is the legal BAC in NC for a Commercial Drivers License (CDL)?

In NC, a BAC of 0.04% is the legal limit. This is the legal limit throughout most of the country. Given this limit, a CDL holder cannot drive with a BAC of more than 0.03%.

What is the legal BAC for someone under 21 in NC?

There is a zero tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving in NC. Therefore, the legal BAC is 0.00% for anyone under the age of 21. In other words, a person under 21 cannot have ANY alcohol in their blood while operating a motor vehicle.

Am I automatically guilty if I am over the legal BAC limit?

No. To obtain a conviction for DWI, the State’s prosecutor must prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is done by proving each element of the charge. While it is easier with proof that your BAC was at or over the legal limit, this fact alone does not automatically mean that you are guilty. We recommend contacting an attorney to help explore possible defenses for your case.

Can I still be arrested if I blow below the legal limit?

Unfortunately, yes. As discussed above, a DWI conviction can sometimes result solely on the basis of the person being substantially impaired, even if their BAC is below 0.08%. In NC, if a law enforcement officer observes you driving in a manner that indicates that you are impaired, the officer can pull you over, conduct additional roadside field sobriety tests, and then arrest you if you are found to be impaired. Since this arrest is based upon the subjective opinion of the officer, you may have a better defense, and trial may be a viable option. We recommend contacting an attorney to help explore possible defenses for your case.

What are pertinent factors in evaluating whether a person should be charged with a DWI?

  • Poor Driving: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has identified several factors that officers should look for when identifying intoxicated drivers including: 1. Problems maintaining proper lane position (weaving, swerving, turning with a wide radius, drifting); 2. Speed and braking problems (varying speed, slow speed, accelerating or decelerating for no apparent reason); 3. Vigilance problems (driving in opposing lanes or the wrong way on a one-way, slow response to traffic signals, failure to use signals or headlights); and 4. Judgment problems (inappropriate or unusual behavior, improper turns or lane changes).


  • During a Traffic Stop: You can still be charged with a DWI even if you were stopped for an unrelated traffic infraction, such as expired registration, window tint violation, or driving withoutheadlights. As long as the officer had a legitimate reason for initially pulling you over, you can be charged with a DWI in conjunction with a traffic violation. According to the Courts, traffic stops unrelated to the offense provide a reasonable basis to investigate the driver further and conduct any tests necessary to determine impairment.


  • Found in a Parked Car: You can be charged with a DWI while sitting in the driver’s seat of a parked car if the car is running or if the keys to the vehicle are simply in the ignition In NC, a person can be charged with a DWI as long as the vehicle is under his or her control, regardless if it is moving or not.


  • While Riding a Bicycle: You can be charged with a DWI on a bike. In NC, a person can be charged with a DWI as long as that person is driving a vehicle. Under the NC statute, for DWI purposes, a bicycle is considered a vehicle. The same goes for a moped, a boat, or a golf cart, if driven on a public thoroughfare.

Sentencing Levels when convicted for DWI

  • Level 5 DWI: This is the lowest DWI level. A judge must find that there were no grossly aggravating factors and that the mitigating factors substantially outweigh the aggravating factors (more about factors below). The punishment may include a fine up to $200 and a sentence with a maximum term of 60 days. The prison time can be suspended with conditions of probation, treatment, or community service.


  • Level 4 DWI: A judge must find that there were no grossly aggravating factors and that the mitigating factors were balanced by the aggravating factors. The punishment may include a fine up to $500 and a sentence with a maximum term of 120 days. The prison time can be suspended with conditions of probation, treatment, or community service.


  • Level 3 DWI: A judge must find that there were no grossly aggravating factors and that the aggravating factors substantially outweigh the mitigating factors. The punishment may include a fine up to $1,000 and a sentence with a maximum term of 6 months. The prison time can be suspended with conditions of probation, treatment, or community service.


  • Level 2 DWI: The judge only needs to find that there was one grossly aggravating factor. The judge does not weigh aggravating and mitigating factors, except when considering the punishment. The punishment may include a fine up to $2,000 and a sentence with a maximum term of 12 months. The prison time can be suspended with conditions of some jail time, abstaining from consuming alcohol, treatment, and/or probation.


  • Level 1 DWI: The judge must find either (1) two grossly aggravating factors, or (2) that there was a passenger under the age of 18 in the vehicle. The punishment may include a fine up to $4,000 and a sentence with a maximum term of 24 months. The prison time can be suspended with conditions of some jail time, abstaining from consuming alcohol, continuous alcohol monitoring, treatment, and/or probation.


  • Aggravated Level 1 DWI: This is the most severe misdemeanor DWI level. The judge must find three or more grossly aggravating factors. The punishment may include a fine up to $10,000 and a sentence with a maximum term of 36 months. The prison time can be suspended with conditions of some jail time, abstaining from consuming alcohol, continuous alcohol monitoring, treatment, and probation.

Mitigating Factors vs. Aggravating Factors

Grossly Aggravating Factors:

  • Prior DWI conviction within 7 years of the date of the current DWI offense
  • An intervening DWI conviction
  • Offense committed while defendant’s license was revoked for a prior DWI
  • Offense resulted in serious injury to another
  • A child under the age of 18 was in the vehicle


Aggravating Factors:
  • A Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0.15% or higher
  • Especially reckless or dangerous driving
  • Negligent driving that leads to a reportable accident
  • Driving with a revoked license
  • Poor driving history
  • Two or more prior convictions of a motor vehicle offense (not involving impaired driving) of which 3 points were assigned
  • Speeding at least 30 mph over the speed limit
  • Passing a stopped school bus
  • Any other aggravating factor that increases the seriousness of the crime


Mitigating Factors:
  • Slight impairment – a Blood Alcohol Concentration at or less than 0.09%
  • Driving that is considered safe (besides the impairment) at the time of impairment
  • Safe driving record
  • Impairment was due to a lawfully prescribed drug
  • Voluntary submission to a mental health facility for an assessment
  • Completion of a substance abuse assessment and 60 days of monitored abstinence from alcohol

What is the difference between pleading guilty and going to trial for a DWI?

By pleading guilty without an attorney, you could face the maximum penalty. Plea agreements under the guidance of an attorney can help minimize penalties by seeking the lowest level DWI conviction. That said, when there is substantial evidence that a DWI stop or arrest were not conducted appropriately, going to trial and entering a plea of not guilty may result in the least penalties, or an outright dismissal. Often, DWI cases can last months and require many appearances for the defendant. Hiring an attorney can minimize the amount of times you have to go to court, usually to a single appearance.

Can I drive after a DWI conviction?

License Suspension: The length of your license suspension will vary depending on the specifics of your case. If convicted of a DWI of any level, your license will be suspended for a minimum of one year. If you are convicted of your second DWI, it will be suspended for two years. For a third or subsequent DWI, your license will be permanently suspended. Additionally, if you refuse a chemical analysis, your license will be suspended for a year, even if you are not convicted of a DWI. This has to do with North Carolina’s “Prior Consent” laws, which state that by using a public motorway, you are automatically subject to breath and blood tests if you are suspected to be impaired.

Limit Driving Privilege (LDP): In certain cases, you may be able to obtain an LDP, which will allow you to drive to and from work or school, handle household responsibilities like going to the grocery store, visiting your house of worship, or attending drug/alcohol counseling. Typically, a substance abuse assessment will be required prior to an LDP being granted, and you will need to provide a letter from your employer that states the hours you work. It is best to consult with an experienced DWI attorney if you want to seek a LDP.

Does a DWI conviction show up on my driving record and insurance?

NC Driving & Criminal Record: DWI charges can only be expunged if you were found not guilty or if the charge itself was dismissed. A DWI conviction cannot be expunged and will stay on your record forever.If you receive a second DWI charge within seven years after your first DWI conviction, the court will consider it a second offense, which comes with a more severe punishment. Receiving a subsequent DWI charge more than seven years after your first conviction can still hold this as an aggravating factor which could potentially lead to more sever consequences if you are convicted.

NC Insurance Rates: Due to your charge, insurance companies will consider you to be dangerous and more likely to cause an accident. Therefore, a conviction of a DWI will add 12 points to your insurance and on average cause a 400% increase of your insurance rates.

Out-of-State License & Record: If you are charged and convicted in NC, but are licensed in a different state, your licensing state will more than likely find out about the DWI. Most states have agreements to share driving record and arrest information. It is advisable to check with attorneys in the state you are licensed to drive in to find out how your license and driving record will be affected by a NC DWI.

Why Choose the Hatley Law Office to Handle your DWI Charge?

Receiving a DWI can be one of the most stressful times of your life. However, our team of DWI attorneys will walk you through the next steps, develop a strategy, and build your defense. Our seasoned DWI attorneys know North Carolina's laws and fully understand what officers of the court must do throughout the DWI process. The Hatley Law Office will work to reduce or eliminate the damage that a DWI conviction can cause. Give us a call today and let us help to take the weight off your shoulders

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