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How aggravating and mitigating circumstances can affect your DWI case

On Behalf of | Feb 13, 2024 | DWI/DUI

A criminal charge for driving while intoxicated (DWI) can lead to penalties such as jail time, fines and even the suspension of your driver’s license. But did you know that certain factors surrounding your case can affect the severity of these penalties?

When facing a DWI charge in North Carolina, the specific details of your situation can heavily influence the outcome of your case. Recognizing the role of aggravating and mitigating circumstances can help you understand the potential ramifications of your charge.

Aggravating circumstances

Aggravating factors are elements of your case that can lead to harsher penalties. According to state law, aggravating factors include:

  • Gross impairment: If you had an alcohol concentration (whether breath or blood) of .15% or more within a relevant time during the offense, it can be used as an aggravating factor in your case.
  • Reckless or dangerous driving: If your driving behavior during the offense endangered the lives of others, it’s a point against you in your DWI case.
  • Driving with a revoked license: Not only is it against the law to drive with a revoked license, it’s also an aggravating factor for a DWI case.
  • Two or more prior convictions of a motor vehicle offense. A history of motor vehicle offenses – even those not involving DWI – can serve as an aggravating factor in a DWI case. These offenses include speeding, not yielding the right-of-way, illegal parking and unlawfully passing a stopped school bus.
  • Negligent driving leading to reportable accident: If your drunk driving led to an accident that caused injuries requiring immediate medical attention, the incident can aggravate your DWI sentence.
  • Fleeing the authorities: If you attempt to flee from a police car asking you to pull over for a traffic stop, it can be used as an aggravating circumstance.

But just as there are aggravating factors, there are also mitigating factors that can help reduce the severity of your DWI sentence.

Mitigating circumstances

The following are some mitigating factors in a DWI case:

  • Slight impairment with a BAC that did not exceed 0.09%.
  • Safe and lawful driving at the time of the offense.
  • A clean driving record.
  • Voluntary participation in a substance abuse assessment and compliance with its recommendations.
  • Impairment caused by a lawfully prescribed drug for an existing medical condition.
  • Any other factor that mitigates the seriousness of the offense.

A judge will decide which penalty level you’ll face depending on how many aggravating or mitigating factors you might have. Each level has longer jail time and larger fees than the last.

You can argue for the consideration of mitigating factors to balance the aggravating circumstances of your DWI offense. But this can be difficult and intimidating without legal know-how. Consider consulting with an experienced attorney who may be able to protect your rights in court.