The Sobering Facts about DWI

Summer is beach season, enjoy the surf and sand, but don’t leave with a DWI
Welcome to our beaches and the beautiful little city of Southport!  It’s a time to relax, have some fun, and indulge a little.  But when it comes to alcohol, don’t indulge and drive, or you may end up leaving with a DWI (Driving While Impaired – this includes alcohol and other substances).

Each year thousands of visitors come to our area for vacation, a long weekend, or a day trip to the beach.  Unfortunately, every year a few of our visitors go home with a DWI.  In fact, 2600 out of state DWI convictions occurred in North Carolina in 2013 (most recent statistic available by NC DWI Services).  A DWI can cost up to $10,000.  Imagine the things you could do on vacation with that sum!  The average attorney fee for a DWI is $1,500 to $2,500 but can range as high as $10,000.  You can also expect to pay higher auto insurance premiums for up to five years.  Your premium may not drop to rock bottom following the three year mark of a DWI conviction and it’s possible to see an increase upon notice of the 30 day revocation.

A lot of visitors simply are unaware of some of the DWI laws and break them unknowingly.  We want you to leave remembering a vacation of your dreams, not a nightmare.  Below are some tips and information to avoid the stress and expense of a DWI:

  • Anyone can be charged with a DWI if they drive with a Blood Alcohol Content of .08; however, be aware that it is up to the officer’s discretion. If you are found to be impaired with a BAC lower than .08 you can be charged with a DWI.  This can also include medications that cause impairment.
  • You can be charged with a DWI if you drink and drive on a golf cart, bicycle, tractor, 4-wheeler, or scooter. To be safe, don’t drink and then drive anything that has wheels.
  • Know the standard serving sizes for alcoholic beverages and what that looks like in a glass: 12 oz. Beer, 5 oz. Wine, one Shot of 80 proof Liquor, or 1 oz. of 100 proof.  (Be careful of craft beers with higher alcohol content.)  If a bartender “hooks you up”, you may be having two or three servings in a glass instead of one.
  • Two standard drinks (using the measurements above) with dinner could put a 120 lb. woman over the BAC limit.
  • One Long Island Iced Tea could contain five shots of alcohol and put a 240 lb. man over the limit.
  • Wait 45 minutes to an hour for each standard drink consumed before driving. It would be advisable for a person to wait approximately four to five hours after consuming one Long Island Iced Tea!
  • You can experience an increase in impairment due to body fluid (those with less body fluid usually become more impaired than those with more body fluid), with some medications/drugs, being tired or sick, or having an empty stomach.
  • North Carolina Law Enforcement can and does use checkpoints to check for impaired drivers.
  • You can get a DWI on Bald Head Island driving a golf cart.
  • So, you know you have had too much to drink – You have made the right move and called a cab. It’s hot outside, and you just want a little A/C while you wait for the cab.  DON’T PUT THE KEYS IN THE IGNITION!   You can get a DWI, even if you are not driving, if you have the keys in the ignition and the car is parked.

Here are comments from some of our legal experts:
“DWI laws in NC have become increasingly tough over the last several years. Most people don’t realize that if they are charged with a DWI that their license privileges will be immediately suspended for the next 30 days, whether they are eventually found guilty or not. Being away from home without a valid license could put a serious damper on a vacation.  Should you find yourself charged with a DWI, contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss all of your rights and options. You may be eligible for reinstatement of your driving privileges within a few days.”  Mr. Mark Bachara, Attorney, Bachara & Essey, Oak Island, NC

“Southport and Oak Island has been blessed with numerous navigable waterways and there is nothing more enjoyable than being outside and experiencing all that this area has to offer.  However, North Carolina has laws that strictly prohibit operating a boat, water skis, or surfing while impaired.  These laws are definitely not as well-known as the driving while impaired prohibitions, but nothing could ruin a vacation faster than being arrested and charged with one of these violations.  Being charged with Boating While Impaired can negatively affect your criminal record and could in certain situations lead to jail time.”    H. Edward Geddings, Jr., Geddings & Kleva, PLLC, Oak Island, NC

Out-of-state drivers who receive a DWI in North Carolina face duel concerns.  First, a motorist charged with DWI faces North Carolina’s severe criminal prosecution and possible punishments.  However, an out-of-state driver charged with DWI in North Carolina also faces the collateral consequence involving the possible revocation of one’s privilege to drive in North Carolina and possibly one’s home state.

Subsequent to a DWI conviction involving a BAC of .08 or more, he or she will lose the privilege to operate a motor vehicle in North Carolina for at least one year.  If a motorist has the need to drive in North Carolina during that year, he or she should consult an attorney to see if a limited driving privilege is an option.  Finally, most states are members of the Driver License Compact meaning one’s home state may revoke an individual’s license based upon his or her North Carolina conviction.  Thus, one will need to consult an attorney back home in addition to the attorney retained to handle the North Carolina criminal DWI charge.“  Mr. Rick Parrotte, Attorney, Wright, Worley, Pope, Ekster & Moss, PLLC, Supply, NC.

One final tip, if you are stopped at a DWI checkpoint or pulled over for suspicion of a DWI, it is NOT in your best interest to refuse the breathalyzer in North Carolina.  Refusing has penalty consequences that are almost impossible to avoid.  First, in most cases, you are automatically going to be charged with a Driving While Impaired.  Second, you will lose your license for one year for the refusal and then another year following the conviction of a DWI.  Third, you must attend a minimum of Short Term (20 Hours) Substance Abuse Treatment sessions and will not be eligible for the education course Alcohol and Drug Education Traffic School (ADETS).

Enjoy our beautiful beaches and all this area has to offer.  If you decide to indulge a little, plan accordingly.  Make taxi arrangements before you go or have your bartender call for a cab.  Whatever you do, do not risk drinking and driving.  Our law enforcement is dedicated to keeping you and your family safe during this busy season.

A special thanks to Mr. Mark Bachara, Mr. Ed Geddings, and Mr. Rick Parrotte for their contributions to this article.

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