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Criminal Law FAQs

Criminal Law FAQs


What is DWI?

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is the offense of operating a motor vehicle in a physically or mentally impaired condition, which includes the consumption of enough alcohol (or drugs) to raise one’s BAC (blood alcohol content) above the statutory limit.

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Will I lose my driver’s license in a DWI conviction?

If you register .08 or greater in a blood or breath test, you lose your privilege to drive in North Carolina (and your license, if it is a North Carolina license) for 30 days. Often you are eligible for a privilege to drive after 10 days if you comply with statutory procedure.

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Is a DWI considered a felony?

In North Carolina there are two types of DWI’s that are felonies.

  • Felony death by motor vehicle, which a person is charged with if someone dies in an accident that was caused by a drunk driver.
  • The other felony is habitual DWI, which a person is charged with if it is their fourth DWI conviction within seven years.

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What happens once I am convicted of DWI?

If you are convicted of DWI in the State of North Carolina a number of things happen. After the hearing in court where the Judge listens to the police officer, the District Attorney, your attorney, and maybe you the Judge will determine guilt. If you are found guilty, you will receive one of five levels of punishment. Level One is the most severe and Level Five the least severe.

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What can I do to save my license?

First, contact an experienced Hatch, Little & Bunn, LLP attorney. If it is alleged that you refused to co-operate in alcohol testing, you must promptly request a hearing or you lose your right to contest that allegation and your license will be suspended for at least one year. In most cases, you have the right to a limited privilege after 10 of the 30 days suspension, and you can have your license back in 30 days for $50.00.

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What happens after each DWI conviction?

  • First Offense: If there have been no prior DWI convictions within the last 3 years, the loss of license is for one year.
  • Second Offense: Receiving two DWI charges within 3 years will result in a second offense charge if the first DWI resulted in a conviction. Loss of License is for four years.
  • Third Offense: Three offenses within 10 years and the last two occurred within 5 years will result in permanent loss of Driver’s License. However, after 5 years, the offender can request a hearing by the Division of Motor Vehicles to reinstate the Driver’s License.
  • Habitual Impaired Driving: Receiving a fourth DWI conviction within a 7 year period will result in a conviction of Habitual Impaired Driving. This is a felony and a minimum prison sentence of one year. The prison sentence cannot be suspended or shortened for any reason. Loss of Driver’s License is Lifetime and cannot be reinstated at any time. No appeals are allowed by the DMV for a conviction of Habitual Impaired Driving.

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Can I get a Privilege license even if I am found guilty of DWI?

Typically you can get a Privilege license allowing you to drive from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM, Monday through Friday, plus “non-standard” work hours, to use for the one year that your license is revoked, as long as there are no “Grossly Aggravating Factors” in your case and you meet other conditions.

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Will I have to attend alcohol classes if I am convicted of DWI?

Yes. A DWI Assessment is required for everyone who is convicted of DWI in the state of North Carolina. You cannot receive a conditional license without a DWI Assessment. The amount of DWI Assessment classes you will be required to attend will depend on your conviction.

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What happens if I refuse to take the breath test?

Your license will be revoked for thirty days. Your license will also be suspended for one year. This suspension by DMV is different than the one year suspension from the court system. It is very important that you discuss these issues with an attorney to determine what can be done to protect your interests. Contact an attorney at Hatch, Little & Bunn, LLP

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What crimes are misdemeanors or felonies?

Examples of a misdemeanor include battery, disorderly conduct, disorderly intoxication, petty theft and prostitution.

Examples of a felony include murder, grand theft, burglary, robbery, kidnapping, and some drug offenses. A misdemeanor crime may also become a felony after repeated offenses.

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What is white-collar crime?

A white-collar crime is considered a non-violent crime committed by someone that possesses respectability with a high social status in the occupation held (corporations, employees, officers, and individuals). Examples of white-collar crime include bribery, extortion, embezzlement, securities fraud, theft, bribery, insider trading, price-fixing, racketeering, and stock manipulation.

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What is the felony murder rule?

The felony murder rule states that “any death which occurs during the commission or attempt to commit certain felonies, including arson, sexual offenses, burglary, robbery or kidnapping, is first-degree murder and all participants in the felony can be held equally culpable, including those who did no harm, had no weapon, and did not intend to hurt anyone”. In North Carolina, there are two penalties possible if found guilty: life in prison without parole and/or death.

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Do I need an attorney to represent me for a speeding violation in North Carolina?

An experienced traffic law attorney can increase your chances of winning your case. Speeding tickets and other traffic violations can:

  • Add points to your driver’s license
  • Cause the suspension of your driver’s license
  • Cause your driver’s license to be revoked – temporarily or permanently
  • Increase your vehicle insurance payments
  • Result in your car being confiscated
  • Scar you with a permanent criminal record
  • Sentence you to probation
  • Send You To Jail

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What is the definition of sexual assault?

Sexual assault is defined as a statutory offense that provides that it is a crime to knowingly cause another person to engage in an unwanted sexual act by force or threat.

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What are my rights if I am stopped, searched, or arrested by the police?

  • You have the right to ask why you have been stopped.
  • The police may “pat-down” your clothing if they suspect you are carrying a concealed weapon, but you have the right to refuse any additional search.
  • If you are arrested in North Carolina, the police must tell you that you have the right to remain silent and the right to talk to a lawyer.

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Can the police search my premises without a search warrant?

In some cases. For example, the police can search any place (other than a residence) where they believe they will find illegal drugs or illegal weapons. However, the police cannot normally enter any residence or place of business against the occupant’s wishes unless they have a valid search warrant, or if the police are invited into the premises.

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Do I have to take a Breathalyzer test if the police ask me to?

Yes. To fail to take this is a criminal offense for which you can be charged. Immediately contact an experienced DWI lawyer to assist you with your case.

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What should I do if I have been accused of embezzlement?

If you are accused of embezzlement, you should speak to an experienced criminal law attorney immediately to learn more about your rights, your defenses and the complicated legal system. Embezzlement occurs when a person who has lawful possession of another’s money or property, fraudulently converts that money or property. The wrongdoer, often an employee, trustee, fiduciary, or agent, acquires possession of the property lawfully and then converts the property to his or her own use.

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I own my own business and did not file taxes last year. Can I go to jail for this?

It depends. Tax evasion is committed by failing to file tax returns or by filing false tax returns. Tax evasion is a crime. When people do not file their taxes or they falsify the forms, it is decreasing the revenue available to the federal and state governments. Considered a white-collar crime, tax evasion is a serious offense and can be very difficult to handle when dealing with IRS. You should contact an experienced white-collar crime attorney to handle your case.

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I am charged with manslaughter. How is this different from a charge of murder?

Murder is the crime of intentionally and unjustifiably killing another. First-degree murder is a homicide committed with premeditation or in the course of a serious felony (i.e., robbery). Manslaughter is divided into voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter encompasses any homicide resulting from an intentional act done without malice or premeditation and while in the heat of passion or on sudden provocation. Involuntary manslaughter includes an element of unlawful recklessness or negligence (i.e., automobile accidents).

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Are all illegal drugs treated equally in a court of law?

No, the punishment for drug crimes depends not only on the criminal conduct of the offender but also on the classification of the drug. Law prohibits the possession, use, sale or furnishing of any drug or intoxicating substance or drug paraphernalia. A drug dealer caught with 300 kilograms of heroin would suffer a harsher sentence than if caught with 300 kilograms of cocaine. It is best to seek the assistance of an experienced drug trafficking attorney.

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Serving North Carolina clients for more than 50 years

Hatch, Little & Bunn, LLP has provided comprehensive legal services to individuals and businesses in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Research Triangle Park, Wake County and throughout North Carolina from offices by the state capitol for over half a century. Our attorneys are licensed to practice before all North Carolina state and federal courts. Call 919-670-1411 today, or email the criminal team to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys about your concerns.