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The attorneys of Daughtry, Woodard, Lawrence, & Starling

Habitual impaired driving – an offense for repeat DWI violators

On Behalf of | Aug 30, 2023 | Firm News

The penalties keep increasing each time a court convicts a motorist of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in North Carolina. A convicted driver might have to pay a fine of up to $200 and serve at least 24 hours in jail for a first offense. But those amounts can add up quickly depending on aggravating factors such as incredibly high blood alcohol levels, driving drunk with a child passenger and reckless behavior.

However, a driver hasn’t truly faced the worst penalties until a court has convicted them of three or more DWI offenses within 10 years. When this happens, the court will additionally convict the driver of habitual impaired driving.

From misdemeanor to felony

Typically, a DWI charge for drivers who violate less than three counts can lead to a misdemeanor on conviction. But for habitual impaired drivers, a conviction is a Class F felony, with a minimum 12-month imprisonment term in a state prison. This jail time is mandatory, so the convicted driver must serve time.

This prison sentence is in addition to any fines the court might levy on the convicted driver.

Vehicle forfeiture

A habitual impaired driving conviction could also lead to the forfeiture of the driver’s vehicle if ordered by a judge. There will be a forfeiture hearing over the vehicle, which may allow the original owner who wasn’t charged with DWI to contest the confiscation. However, they’ll have to prove that the convicted driver had no ownership interest in the vehicle or that the original owner didn’t know that the convicted driver took their vehicle.

Permanent loss of driving privileges

In addition to the mandatory jail time and vehicle forfeiture, a convicted habitual impaired driver faces permanent license revocation. For a person to restore their permanently revoked license, they must first meet several eligibility requirements, such as having zero alcohol or drug-related offenses in two years. Once a driver is eligible, they may request a hearing over their case.

Only by winning the hearing can a driver apply for a new license.

A habitual impaired driving offense leads to severe penalties, a felony criminal conviction, permanently revoked driving privileges and even the loss of the driver’s car. Drivers with a history of DWI should consider legal support or face the full brunt of these punishments.