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In my DWI case, does it matter if I had a low BAC?

Having a drink before driving is not a crime in North Carolina. You can be charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) when your blood alcohol content (BAC) reaches .08 percent or higher. The problem for most adults is determining when they have passed that threshold. You could have two beers and register a .079 BAC on one night and a .082 BAC on the next.

North Carolina law recognizes that not every drunk driving situation is the same. In fact, Section 20-179 of the North Carolina General Statutes specifically enumerates certain factors that a judge may consider during sentencing to reduce the penalties. These are referred to as mitigating factors, and a low BAC is only one of them.

Other mitigating factors a judge may consider include:

  • The reasons why you were pulled over: Were you driving in a safe and lawful manner at the time of the traffic stop, other than the impairment?
  • Your driving record: Do you have any prior convictions on your driving record for motor vehicle offenses that are worth at least 4 points or could result in the automatic suspension of your license?
  • Prescription drugs: Did a drug a doctor legally prescribed to you cause your impairment? Did you consume the proper dosage?
  • Treatment programs: Have you voluntarily submitted to a substance abuse assessment? Did you voluntarily participate in any suggested treatment programs?
  • Any other factor that mitigates the seriousness of the offense: Were you polite and cooperative with the arresting officer? Do you have a good family support system?

You have to establish these factors. A good defense attorney knows how to build a strong argument as to why you should face lesser penalties, especially when it comes to the last “any other factor.”

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