Drunk Driving Statutes

Alcohol and drug-related car accidents cause a significant number of deaths every year throughout the United States. Despite the efforts of governments and local groups to bring awareness to the dangers of drunk driving, fatalities still occur. The government of North Carolina has enacted several laws regarding drunk driving. Not only is driving while intoxicated a criminal offense, but drunk drivers may also be liable under civil personal injury laws.

If you have suffered an injury caused by a drunk driver, you may be entitled to compensation. It is wise to seek out help from skilled North Carolina drunk driving accident attorneys as soon as possible after your car accident. At Arnold & Smith, PLLC we have helped many clients recover compensation from the drunk drivers who caused their injuries. Our experienced attorneys are knowledgeable regarding the drunk driving laws in North Carolina. Contact our Charlotte law office to schedule your free initial consultation.

North Carolina’s Definition of Driving While Intoxicated

North Carolina law prohibits drivers from driving while intoxicated or under the influence of any other intoxicating substance. It is a criminal offense to drive any vehicle while intoxicated. A driver is driving while intoxicated (DWI) if he or she does any one or more of the following:

  • Operates a motor vehicle on a public highway, street, or area with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or higher, or
  • Operates a motor vehicle while drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two impair his or her physical or mental abilities, even if the drivers' blood alcohol level is under .08%, or
  • Operating a commercial vehicle on a public highway or street with a blood-alcohol level of .04% or higher.
Are North Carolina Drunk Driving Laws Different Than Laws Regarding Negligence?

North Carolina's criminal laws prohibit driving while intoxicated. A defendant convicted of drunk driving can face severe criminal penalties, including significant fines and jail time. Filing a civil personal injury lawsuit is different than a criminal court trial. Those injured in a car accident involving a drunk driver can file a personal injury lawsuit whether or not the driver faces criminal charges. If a criminal court has already convicted the drunk driver, you may be able to use evidence presented in the criminal trial in your civil personal injury lawsuit.

What if a Criminal Court Finds That the Driver Was Not Legally Intoxicated?

If a criminal court found that the drunk driver who caused your injuries was not driving while intoxicated, you could still be able to recover in civil court. North Carolina’s driving while intoxicated statutes have strict elements that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to result in a conviction.

The standard for proving negligence in a civil court is different than the standard needed to convict a defendant of the crime of driving while under the influence. Instead, plaintiffs in civil personal injury lawsuits must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant's negligent driving caused the victim's injuries. The plaintiff must prove that the facts demonstrate a greater than 50% likelihood that the driver's negligence caused the car accident. More simply stated, the plaintiff must show that more likely than not, the driver's drunk driving caused his or her injuries.

A prosecutor in a criminal trial may not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver drove drunk. Nonetheless, a jury in a civil case could determine that more likely than not, the driver's intoxication caused the accident. Even if the breathalyzer test or blood draw were inconclusive, skilled personal injury attorneys might be able to find additional evidence or testimony demonstrating the driver's negligence. The standards for admissible evidence are different in North Carolina criminal and civil courts. Our Charlotte, North Carolina personal injury attorneys have a deep understanding of the rules of evidence and can skillfully present your case at trial.

North Carolina Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Drunk drivers whose negligent driving causes another person's death may be liable under North Carolina law. Wrongful death occurs when someone's wrongful act, neglect, or default causes the death of another person. If a drunk driver caused the accident that resulted in the death of your loved one, you might be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, funeral expenses, loss of income, and pain and suffering.

We can Help

If you have suffered an injury in a personal injury accident involving a drunk driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the Charlotte drunk driving accident attorneys today to schedule your free initial consultation.

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