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DWI and Limited Driving Privileges in North Carolina

If you have a North Carolina driver’s license and are convicted of DWI, you are eligible for limited driving privileges under G.S. 20-179.3 if

a.         At the time of the offense he held either a valid driver's license or a license that had been expired for less than one year;

b.         At the time of the offense he had not within the preceding seven years been convicted of an offense involving impaired driving;

c.         Punishment Level Three, Four, or Five was imposed for the offense of impaired driving;

d.         Subsequent to the offense he has not been convicted of, or had an unresolved charge lodged against him for, an offense involving impaired driving; and

e.         The person has obtained and filed with the court a substance abuse assessment of the type required by G.S. 20-17.6 for the restoration of a drivers license.

A limited driving privilege is defined as in G.S. 20-179.3(a) as

a judgment issued in the discretion of a court for good cause shown authorizing a person with a revoked driver's license to drive for essential purposes related to any of the following:

(1)    His employment.

(2)    The maintenance of his household.

(3)    His education.

(4)    His court-ordered treatment or assessment.

(5)    Community service ordered as a condition of the person's probation.

(6)    Emergency medical care.

The court is permitted to authorize driving for “work-related purposes” during “standard working hours” (6 AM - 8 PM, Monday-Friday) without specifying the times and routes of the driving, although the name and address of the employer must be included. However, for an applicant to obtain limited driving privileges for non-standard working hours, times and routes must be specified to the extent possible.

If a person is convicted of an impaired driving offense and had a BAC of 0.15 or greater at the time of the offense then his limited driving privilege is subject to the following additional restrictions under subsection (c1) which states that the limited driving privilege must:

(1)    Not become effective until at least 45 days after the final conviction under G.S. 20-138.1;

(2)    Require the applicant to comply with the ignition interlock requirements of subsection (g5) of this section; and

(3)    Restrict the applicant to driving only to and from the applicant's place of employment, the place the applicant is enrolled in school, any court ordered treatment or substance abuse education, and any ignition interlock service facility.

When a person willfully refuses to submit to a chemical testing under G.S. 20-16.2, his license is automatically revoked for one year. In that case, the granting of limited driving privileges is covered by subsection (e1) of that statute, which states in part that

A person whose driver's license has been revoked under this section may apply for and a judge authorized to do so by this subsection may issue a limited driving privilege if:

(1)    At the time of the refusal the person held either a valid drivers license or a license that had been expired for less than one year;

(2)    At the time of the refusal, the person had not within the preceding seven years been convicted of an offense involving impaired driving;

(3)    At the time of the refusal, the person had not in the preceding seven years willfully refused to submit to a chemical analysis under this section;

(4)    The implied consent offense charged did not involve death or critical injury to another person;

(5)    The underlying charge for which the defendant was requested to submit to a chemical analysis has been finally disposed of:

a.     Other than by conviction; or

b.     By a conviction of impaired driving under G.S. 20-138.1, at a punishment level authorizing issuance of a limited driving privilege under G.S. 20-179.3(b), and the defendant has complied with at least one of the mandatory conditions of probation listed for the punishment level under which the defendant was sentenced;

(6)    Subsequent to the refusal the person has had no unresolved pending charges for or additional convictions of an offense involving impaired driving;

(7)    The person's license has been revoked for at least six months for the refusal; and

(8)    The person has obtained a substance abuse assessment from a mental health facility and successfully completed any recommended training or treatment program.

The subsection goes on to allow that the procedures for hearings and applications contained in G.S. 20-179.3 apply to the applications in subsection (e1) of G.S. 20-16.2.

Another instance where a person’s driver’s license can be revoked in connection with drinking and driving is under G.S. 138.3, which makes it unlawful for someone less than 21 years old to drive any alcohol in his body. Limited driving privileges granted in connection with a revocation resulting from this offense is addressed in G.S. 20-138.3(d) which states that

A person who is convicted of violating subsection (a) of this section and whose drivers license is revoked solely based on that conviction may apply for a limited driving privilege as provided in G.S. 20-179.3. This subsection shall apply only if the person meets both of the following requirements:

(1)    Is 18, 19, or 20 years old on the date of the offense.

(2)    Has not previously been convicted of a violation of this section.

The judge may issue the limited driving privilege only if the person meets the eligibility requirements of G.S. 20-179.3, other than the requirement in G.S. 20-179.3(b)(1)c. G.S. 20-179.3(e) shall not apply. All other terms, conditions, and restrictions provided for in G.S. 20-179.3 shall apply. G.S. 20-179.3, rather than this subsection, governs the issuance of a limited driving privilege to a person who is convicted of violating subsection (a) of this section and of driving while impaired as a result of the same transaction.

If you have been arrested for DWI, obtaining your limited driving privileges can be very important. Contact an attorney at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC (704) 714-1450, to discuss your options.

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