How to Regain Driving Privileges in North Carolina After a DWI Suspension


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In North Carolina, it is common for people to lose their driving privileges after being arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. In some cases, it is possible to have these driving privileges restored.

Factors that Affect Suspension Period

There are several factors that affect a defendantís suspension period. These factors include the defendantís blood alcohol content level and any previous history of violations regarding DWI impairment. For drivers 21 years old or older, the standard revocation of driving privileges is 30 days. If a defendant refuses to take a chemical test, he or she can immediately lose his or her license for 30 days as well as have a longer revocation of 12 months issued by the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles.

For a first offense for driving while intoxicated, the revocation period for driving privileges is one year. The second offense results in a four-year revocation period. The third offense results in permanent revocation of driving privileges if a prior conviction occurred within the last five years. A fourth offense is considered a felony and results in a permanent revocation.

Application for Limited Driving Privileges

If a person is charged with DWI as a first offense, he or she can apply for limited driving privileges after 11 days into the 30-day revocation period. However, he or she must meet certain criteria. This criteria includes having a valid license or one that was expired for less than a year, not having any outstanding DWI charges and completing a substance abuse assessment by a certified substance abuse education center.

Conditions of Limited Driving Privileges

If approved, the limited driving privileges only consist of restored privileges between the 11th and the 3-th day of the suspension. The defendant can only drive between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. and only on weekdays.

Limited Driving Privileges During One-Year Suspension

Defendants who are convicted of their first DWI offense may also be eligible for limited driving privileges during the one-year suspension period. He or she must meet the same requirements as for the 30-day limited driving privileges. Additionally, this option is only available if the defendant was sentenced to a level 3, 4 or 5 offense.

Restoration of Driving Privileges after Two Offenses

In some situations, a defendant who has been convicted of two DWI offenses may be able to request a DWI restoration hearing with the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles. The purpose of this hearing is to ask that his or her driving privileges be reinstated. Before he or she is eligible for this option, the defendant must have gone through a substantial amount of time into the period of his or her lost privileges. This is usually three or more years.

To accomplish this restoration, the defendant must submit necessary paperwork. This paperwork usually includes a copy of his or her driving record, court documents, criminal record check and proof of alcohol abuse treatment. This paperwork establishes the defendantís eligibility for the hearing itself. A hearing is scheduled in the case.

At the hearing, a hearing officer reviews the evidence. Additionally, the defendant can present witnesses who can discuss his or her sobriety and willingness to change.

Refusal Revocation Hearing

For defendants who refused to take a chemical test as required by law after being arrested for DWI, one option to restore driving privileges is to apply for a refusal revocation hearing through the Department of Motor Vehicles. At this type of hearing, the defendant can present evidence to show that he or she did not willfully refuse the test, that the test was not performed properly or that the officer lacked the requisite probable cause to demand the test. If any of these findings are made, then the defendantís driving privileges can be restored.

Relationship Between Hearing and Criminal Case

Although one case can affect the other, the hearing and the criminal case are technically separate from each other. A person can win back his or her driving privileges in the administrative hearing while still being convicted in the criminal case. However, a person only has a limited amount of time to request a hearing or limited driving privileges, so it is important that he or she discusses these issues promptly with his or her lawyer.

Contact a Lawyer for Assistance

Individuals who are facing criminal charges in North Carolina related to drunk driving should speak to an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can explain his or her rights.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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