Many times people think to themselves that a DWI charge is not even worth fighting. After all, can’t they just plead to it, pay the fines, get a substance abuse assessment and treatment, and hope they get community service instead of jail? Surely that is not too much to do. Well, if that were it, it may not be worth fighting when dealing with a “routine” DWI, where it is the person’s first offense and there was no accident. But even a “routine” DWI charge is certainly worth fighting.
So why is that the case? There are two principle reasons that a DWI charge is worth fighting. The first reason is the affect that a conviction will have on your insurance premiums. If you are convicted of DWI, you can expect your premiums to soar. Your payments will go up dramatically, if indeed anyone will choose to insure you. You may even have to become a part of the State’s High Risk pool. The way that this pool works is that all of the auto insurance companies in the state are required to carry some of the risk of the pool However, the tradeoff for the person that is insured is that their rates will be so much higher than normal. It may be the case that the person can find a private insurance company that will accept the risk “on a voluntary basis,” but it will still be much higher than ordinary rates.
So how long will a DWI conviction affect your insurance rate? Years to come. The fine typically does not even begin to compare with the additional insurance you pay. The fine hits you all at once, the insurance premium hits you time and time again. It is a reminder of your DWI every time that you pay it. The only way you could avoid these increased penalties is to contest your DWI in court.
The other reason that a DWI charge should be contested is that a DWI conviction is a permanent criminal record that can stick with you for the rest of your life. This can affect your life in numerous ways. One of the primary ways it can do so is that you will have this appear in a background check every time that you apply for a job. This can effect you no matter the type of work that you go into. Some employers may not care that you have a DWI conviction in your past, but others will. Certainly any job in which you would be driving for the company or using any heavy machinery would be hard to get. Even employers who will not require you to drive a company vehicle may still give pause before hiring you.
In addition to the professional implications of a DWI, there are personal ones. Some people are ashamed of having a DWI on their record. Even if a person is not ashamed and can get on with life, it is still annoying that there is a conviction on your record that you have to explain to potential employers.
Many times people ask about expunction for a DWI. Theoretically, it may be possible, but it is not typically available for people who ask. To start off with, it must be more than 15 years in the past. Not only does the conviction have to be 15 years in the past, but any punishment, such as incarceration or probation, must be 15 years in the past as well. In addition to this time requirement, a person cannot have had any felony or misdemeanor convictions (other than traffic charges) during this 15 year period. If a person is able to clear that hurdle as well, there is still one more. They must not have had any other type of expunction under any of the other expunction laws. After all of these requirements, there are few people who are eligible for DWI expunctions.
The previous law was even stricter; it allowed for no expunctions for DWIs. Period. So now, at least, there may be a way for you to get an expunction after 15 years. So now, back to the beginning. You don’t have to worry about getting an expunction if you are never convicted for DWI. So you can see the benefit of contesting your case to try to protect your record.
Only a licensed North Carolina attorney who is familiar with all of the facts of your case can determine how strong your case is. Your attorney will learn more and more about the case over time, as the officer becomes available to testify, the officer notes become available, and any potential video is released. Every case is different, so there is no one size fits all answer. Our law firm would be glad to review your case to see how strong of a case that you have. If you have a strong case, we would be glad to contest it for you. We can let you know your options, and advise you, but it is up to you to make your own choice.