A lot of people still believe that the law is lenient with first-time offenders. However, as an experienced Asheville DUI lawyer knows, this is not the case when it comes to driving while impaired or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Even the first DUI in Asheville carries severe penalties, with far-reaching consequences.
Here are the facts you need to know about being charged with DUI or DWI for the first time.
North Carolina Takes a Strict Stance on DUI Offenses
The first thing you need to know is that our state has one of the harshest stances in the US when it comes to defining driving under the influence. The concept extends beyond the actual act of driving. A charge of DWI or DUI can be made even against someone who is sleeping it off in a car.
The law refers to the operator of the vehicle – and this implies the possibility of starting to drive at any moment, even if the car is at a standstill when the police officer asks the driver to submit to a breath test.
As an example, in the State vs. Carter case, a person was found guilty of DWI after being found asleep and intoxicated in their car, with the engine running.
You Will Face Two Types of Penalties
Another important aspect you must know is that, even if it is your first DUI in Asheville, you will face the risk of two types of penalties.
Administrative Penalties for a First DUI
Administrative penalties for DUI and DWI are imposed by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. They consist of a civil suspension of the driver’s license in the following situations:
- A driver refuses to submit to a Breathalyzer test
- The blood alcohol content is above the legal threshold of 0.08%.
The initial suspension lasts for 30 days. During this period, you may request an administrative hearing (a separate procedure from the criminal case). If you do not request the hearing or you lose it, the license suspension is extended to one year.
It is important to note that this 1-year license suspension remains in force even if you are ultimately found not guilty of DUI in court. However, after the first 6 months, you may apply for a restricted driving license. It will allow you to drive to and from home and:
Criminal Penalties for a First DUI
Criminal penalties for a first-time DUI in North Carolina are determined based on mitigating and aggravating circumstances. Your Asheville DUI attorney will fight to get your charges reduced to the least serious of the following offenses.
This is the least serious DUI offense and carries the following penalties:
- Fine up to $200
- Between 1 and 60 days in jail – the judge may suspend this sentence and replace it with 24 hours in jail and 24 hours of community service after you complete probation
- Up to 30 days for driver’s license suspension.
As part of sentencing, you may also be subject to substance abuse assessment if you are placed under probation
A Level 4 DUI charge carries more severe penalties, starting with a fine of up to $500. The judge may impose between 2 days and 120 days in jail, or suspend the sentence replacing it with 2 days in jail, followed by 2 days of community service after probation.
Your driver’s license will also be suspended for 60 days.
At this level, the fine may go up to $1,000. Also, the other penalties are more severe:
- Between 72 hours and 6 months in jail, or
- 72 hours in jail and 72 hours of community service after probation
- Substance abuse assessment if you are placed under probation
- 90-day driver’s license suspension.
Level II and the highest DUI offense (Level I presented below) are DUI offenses committed by drivers who:
- are repeat offenders
- were driving on a revoked license
- transported young children while impaired
- caused an accident resulting in bodily injury to a person.
The fine for a level II DUI is up to $2,000, and jail time is between 7 days and 1 year. In this situation, the judge cannot suspend the minimum sentence.
This is the most serious level of DUI offense in North Carolina. It is punishable by a fine of up to $4,000 and between 30 days and 2 years in jail. Just like in the case of the level II offense, the judge cannot suspend the minimum jail sentence.
Contact an Asheville DUI Lawyer Even If You Are a First-Time Offender!
As you can see, North Carolina laws have no lenience for a first DUI. For this reason, you must take the charges very seriously and reach out to an experienced Asheville DUI lawyer as soon as possible.
We offer each new client a free case evaluation, so contact Asheville DUI Guy today at 828-759-5556!