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What Is the Difference Between DUI and DWI in North Carolina?

On Behalf of Christian Ayers
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There is no difference between driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI) in North Carolina. It is illegal for anyone to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol in the state. Any type of intoxicated driving is extremely dangerous for both the impaired driver and everyone around them. If you recently suffered injuries in an accident caused by a drunk driver, a Charlotte drunk driving accident lawyer is the ideal asset to have on your side to pursue accountability and compensation for your damages.

Understanding the State’s Drunk Driving Laws

Throughout the United States, each state enforces different statutes pertaining to intoxicated driving. The terms “driving under the influence (DUI)” and “driving while intoxicated (DWI)” define different offenses in some states, but in North Carolina, these terms are used interchangeably. DUI and DWI both define the same offense, but state laws typically use the term “DWI” in reference to these cases.

It is illegal for anyone to operate a vehicle while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. The penalties for DWI offenses in the state depend on the number of DWI convictions on the driver’s record, the severity of the offense, and whether they caused injury or death. Penalties typically include fines, jail time, loss of their driver’s license, and additional penalties assigned at the discretion of the court.

If a drunk or drugged driver causes an accident, they not only face criminal charges for DWI but also civil liability for the damages they caused. For the victim, the process of resolving a drunk driving accident will mirror what they could expect after any other accident. They will need to prove fault, identify the full extent of their damages, and then pursue compensation with an auto insurance claim and/or personal injury suit.

However, in a drunk driving accident case, the defendant could face additional financial liability to the victim due to the illegal nature of their actions. For example, a judge in a civil case could award a plaintiff punitive damages, or the judge handling criminal sentencing may award the victim restitution as part of the defendant’s sentence. Your Charlotte drunk driving accident lawyer can explain how any such variables may influence your recovery.

What is the difference between DUI and DWI in North Carolina?

Compensation for a Drunk Driving Accident

Before you can claim any compensation for the damages you suffered in your recent accident, you must be ready to prove the other driver is entirely at fault. If they were intoxicated, it may seem obvious, but if you bear any partial liability for the accident due to speeding or other negligence, it will prohibit you from claiming compensation under the state’s contributory negligence law.

Once you establish fault, your first option for recovery is filing an auto insurance claim. Every driver in the state is required to have auto insurance, but if the at-fault driver’s policy can’t fully cover your damages or they do not have insurance, you will need to file a personal injury claim against them to recover the rest of your damages.

The driver responsible for causing a drunk driving accident is likely to face increased penalties due to inflicting injury on the victim. This will not only mean harsher fines, more jail time, and a longer driver’s license suspension but also increased financial liability to the victim in the form of punitive damages or restitution. Your Charlotte drunk driving accident lawyer can advise you on what to expect when it comes to the total compensation you could recover for your accident.


Q: What Are the Penalties for a First DWI?

A: Penalties for DWI convictions in the state generally result in fines, driver’s license suspension, and jail time, even for a first DWI. Judges may issue additional penalties at their discretion, such as mandatory substance abuse counseling and/or community service. Penalties escalate with each subsequent conviction and/or if the defendant caused an accident resulting in great bodily harm or death.

Q: How Much Compensation Can I Claim for a Drunk Driving Accident?

A: You can claim compensation for all damages that result if you were injured in a drunk driving accident if you can prove that another driver is responsible for causing the accident. You can seek compensation for your medical bills, vehicle repair costs, lost wages, and anticipated future economic losses through an auto insurance claim and a personal injury suit. Your Charlotte drunk driving accident lawyer can estimate your claim’s total potential value.

Q: How Is Pain and Suffering Calculated in a Personal Injury Case?

A: Pain and suffering compensation should be calculated by a personal injury lawyer when another party has harmed you. The responsible party is responsible for all economic damages they inflicted as well as physical pain, emotional distress, and psychological trauma. There is no set formula used to calculate how much pain and suffering compensation to seek with an injury claim, nor does the state limit pain and suffering compensation in most personal injury cases.

Q: Can a Drunk Driver Avoid Jail Time in Charlotte?

A: A drunk driver can possibly avoid jail time after a conviction, depending on the number of convictions they have and if they injured someone. Jail is a common punishment for DWI, and the time a defendant spends behind bars typically depends on the DWI convictions on their record and the severity of the offense. A convicted driver might avoid jail for a first offense, and judges are sometimes willing to consider alternative penalties, but this is never guaranteed.

Q: Why Should I Hire a Charlotte Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer?

A: You should hire a Charlotte drunk driving accident lawyer because you are more likely to succeed with your recovery with a lawyer on your side. You are not required to hire an attorney, but you have a greater chance to succeed and maximize compensation with one. Your attorney can streamline your proceedings and potentially help recover your damages more quickly than you could on your own, and they may find channels of recovery you didn’t know were available.

Ayers, Whitlow & Dressler strives to help each of our clients maximize their compensation after suffering injuries in motor vehicle accidents. If you were injured by a drunk driver in Charlotte, we can help you hold them accountable for your damages while the criminal justice system prosecutes them for breaking the law. Contact us today and schedule a free consultation with a Charlotte drunk driving accident lawyer to learn more about how we can help you recover.