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Ask a DWI Attorney: How Does A DWI Become A Felony?


In North Carolina, Driving While Impaired is a misdemeanor.  However, certain facts can lead to a felony charge if there are aggravating circumstances. One of the most common ways a misdemeanor DWI becomes a felony DWI is when the incident involves an accident in which somebody is seriously injured. When you are driving while impaired, you are putting others on the road at risk. If you are arrested for DWI after causing a vehicle accident where a person was seriously injured or died, you will be charged with a felony DWI instead of a misdemeanor DWI. You need to exercise your right to have a DWI attorney present during chemical tests and questioning.   Contact The Trevor J. Avery Law Firm immediately if you are charged with a felony DWI.

What are the Felony DWI Charges in North Carolina?

If you are involved in an accident while drunk driving or drugged driving, you may face on of the following felony driving charges:

  • Felony Serious Injury by Vehicle – This DWI charge is a Class F Felony that is used when a serious injury occurred because of the impaired driving.

  • Aggravated Felony Serious Injury by Vehicle –If the defendant in a Felony Serious Injury by Vehicle has had a prior DWI conviction within the previous 7 years, the charge is enhanced to a Class E Felony.

  • Felony Death by Vehicle – If the impaired driver causes an accident that results in the death of another person, the driver will be charged with a Class D Felony DWI.

  • Aggravated Felony Death by Vehicle – This is the charge used if the person charged with Felony Death by Vehicle has been convicted of impaired driving within seven years of the date of the alleged offense.  In this case the law requires a sentence in the aggravated range for Class D convictions.

  • Repeat Felony Death by Vehicle – This Class B2 Felony is the charge used when a person has a previous Felony Death by Vehicle conviction.

  • Manslaughter – The state may also choose to charge the driver with manslaughter if someone is killed and the driver was impaired at the time of the accident.

  • Habitual Driving While Impaired–A person who has three or more previous convictions for Impaired Driving can be charged under the Habitual DWI statute.  This is a Class F felony, but the law requires that the person convicted serve a minimum of 12 months in prison.

All of the above DWI felonies have the potential for serious prison time in addition to other severe penalties. The best way to avoid a DWI felony is to never drink and drive. If you have anything to drink, call a cab, call a friend, take a bus, or find another way home but never drink and drive.

You will likely be charged with one of the above DWI felonies if someone is injured in an accident caused by your impaired driving.  If you are charged with a North Carolina DWI felony, your best move is to hire an experienced DWI attorney.

North Carolina DWI Felony Sentencing

The North Carolina criminal justice system has structured sentencing for North Carolina felonies including felony DWIs. There are six levels for each felony charge. Once your previous convictions determine the level of your punishment, the judge can review any aggravating or mitigating circumstances to assign a sentence outside of the presumptive range.

An experienced DWI attorney may be able to help you keep your felony driving while impaired charge from rising to an aggravated level or the attorney may be able to help lower sentencing to the mitigated range depending on the facts of your case. Your DWI attorney cannot do anything about your prior record level; however, the attorney can argue mitigating factors that should lower the sentencing range and argue against aggravating factors to prevent a higher sentencing range.

It is critical that you retain an experienced DWI attorney as soon as possible so that the attorney can begin an investigation into the circumstances and facts surrounding your DWI arrest to determine if anything can be done to reduce the sentencing structure if you are convicted on a felony DWI charge.

Contact an Experienced Jacksonville DWI Attorney

“Attorneys Who Aggressively Protect Your Rights”

When you need a skilled, experienced, and aggressive DWI attorney, you need to contact The Trevor J. Avery Law Firm. Our criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience representing individuals charged with misdemeanor DWI and felony DWI in North Carolina. A DWI conviction has serious consequences regardless of whether it is misdemeanor or felony conviction. Your best chance at beating a driving while impaired charge is to retain a DWI attorney as soon as possible after you are arrested. Exercise your right to remain silent except for requesting your attorney.

We represent clients throughout Duplin County, Onslow County and the surrounding communities. Call our office at (910) 405-8459 or contact us online today for a free case evaluation with DWI attorney.