DWI Without Drinking: What Constitutes Impaired in North Carolina
Often, people associate DUI and DWI offenses strictly with alcohol consumption. However, a DWI can occur for reasons that have nothing to do with alcohol. The I in DWI stands for impaired, which can mean various things. Here is what you need to know about DWIs that don’t involve alcohol.
What Is DUI and DWI?
DUI means driving under the influence. DWI stands for either driving while intoxicated or driving while impaired. You will often see these terms used interchangeably, and in modern parlance, there really is no difference between the two.
You may also see other terms for DWI, including terms that replace the word driving with the word operating. For example, OWI, or operating while impaired, means much the same thing as DUI or DWI. In all these cases, you can receive a citation if an officer believes you’re behind the wheel while impaired in some way.
Under the influence can mean under the influence of anything that can degrade your judgment or motor functions. Intoxication can come from any form of substance intoxication. Altogether, this means a DWI charge isn’t limited to driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or more.
How Do You Get Impaired Without Alcohol?
In North Carolina, the legal definition of impairment includes someone who has appreciably impaired mental or physical faculties due to an impairing substance. An impairing substance automatically includes any of the Schedule I controlled substances. The list is long, but includes:
- Opiates and opium derivatives
- Hallucinogenic substances
- Systemic depressants
- Synthetic cannabinoids
Impairment from illegal substances makes sense, but many people may not understand the list also includes many prescription drugs. Having a prescription does not make you immune to a possible DWI citation. If your prescription drug causes or comes with the potential of causing impairment, you should not operate a vehicle when taking it.
What Happens If You’re a Drug-Related DWI Suspect?
Unlike with a breath test for alcohol, law enforcement cannot ascertain a level of intoxication outside of you showing obvious signs of impairment. Instead, the officer will most likely give you field sobriety testing. The officer can arrest you based on his or her observations. The officer can also ask you to consent to a blood test.
You can refuse testing but, in North Carolina, refusal can lead to a loss of driving privileges for one year. North Carolina is an implied consent state, meaning you give consent to testing just by having a license in the state.
Even if you go to court and receive a not guilty verdict, the driving suspension will likely still remain. In addition, the testing refusal will become evidence against you.
What Happens When You Have a Drug-Related DWI Charge?
Avoid driving while impaired or under the influence of any drug. Even if you’re taking legal medication, you should not get behind the wheel if it alters your motor functions or thinking.
If you’re pulled over and accused of driving impaired, comply with the officer’s instructions. Don’t make the situation difficult and don’t give the officer cause to tack on any additional charges.
North Carolina takes DWIs seriously, and the penalties can literally change your life in a host of negative ways. A first offense can lead to fines, a revoked license, and imprisonment. Working your way back to legal driving status from that first offense can become an uphill battle.
After the first offense, penalties become stiffer. For these and more reasons, you should always attempt to fight any citation you receive.
If you’re facing a DWI for any reason, contact Carl L Britt, Jr, Attorney at Law immediately.