Raleigh DWI Law Firm Matheson Law Office, Pllc Warns Recent Changes to NC DWI Law Can Have Serious Consequences for Teenage DWI Defendants

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Recent changes to the North Carolina DWI Law, referred to as "Laura's Law" made changes to the North Carolina DWI Sentencing Structure. One of these changes made it possible for a first-time North Carolina DWI Defendant to face a mandatory 30-day jail sentence, and this change has the possibility to cause first-offense teenage DWI driver's to face very serious consequences.

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Raleigh DWI Attorney M. Moseley Matheson

A 30-day jail sentence could seriously affect anyone's life, but particularly the youth in our community. It could mean the difference between graduating, going to college or finding a job.

Recent changes were made to the North Carolina DWI Law which went into effect December 1, 2011. These changes, referred to as Laura's Law, were designed to add a greater deterrent to those who drive under the influence in North Carolina. Though these changes were meant to better protect the public, one change in particular has the possibility to ensnare young drivers for a first offense and have them face a mandatory 30-day jail sentence. "Though this new law has the best intentions in mind, there is very little discretion given to our Judges to make a determination as to an appropriate sentence given a particular Defendant's facts. Without this discretion, a Judge has no choice but to follow the sentencing guidelines. A 30-day jail sentence could seriously affect anyone's life, but particularly the youth in our community. It could mean the difference between graduating, going to college or finding a job," stated Raleigh DWI Lawyer and Cary DWI Lawyer M. Moseley Matheson.

The changes made to North Carolina DWI Sentencing included a new, more severe sentencing level referred to as an "Aggravated Level One" for those who are repeat DWI offenders. The other significant change was made to one of the so-called "Aggravating Factors" which a Judge must consider when determining where to sentence the DWI Defendant. Prior to December 1, 2011, a Defendant who was arrested for Driving While Intoxicated in North Carolina, who had a passenger under the age of 16 in the vehicle at the time would receive at least one Aggravating Factor. If they only had the one Aggravating Factor, they would be sentenced at a Level Two, which carries with it (among other things) a mandatory, minimum seven-day jail sentence. Most judges would permit a Defendant to serve those seven days on weekends so as to not interrupt work or school. However, after December 1, 2011, that same Aggravating Factor has two major changes made to it: 1. a passenger under the age of 18 will trigger this Aggravating Factor (as oppose to under 16) and 2. this particular Aggravating Factor will now result in an automatic Sentencing Level One (though there is the possibility to reach the new Aggravated Level One given other Aggravating Factors). At Sentencing Level One, a Judge is required to sentence the Defendant to a mandatory, minimum 30 days in jail.

Though this law was written to encourage potential DWI Drivers to refrain from risking others, the potential for a severe punishment for first-time offenders is greater. This is especially true for young drivers who have friends in the vehicle with them. Given the possibility that teenage drivers, coming from a party or school dance, could consume alcohol and have friends in the vehicle under the age of 18, the possibility of a 30-day sentence is a greater likelihood.

Whether this law will serve it's intended purpose or not, the general public, and especially the teenage driver's among us, must be made aware of this additional risk which comes with Driving While Intoxicated in North Carolina.

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