Alcoholism is Not a Legal Defense in DWI Cases

alcoholismAlcoholism and DWI Arrest

Alcoholism is not a recognized legal defense. And neither is voluntary intoxication for obvious reasons. Such conduct is the basis for and essence of this criminal charge. However, what about those individuals who have been medically diagnosed with chronic alcoholism. Experts agree that alcoholism has a genetic predisposition and is diagnosed as a clinical addiction? So why do we not treat alcoholism as a disease? And how can someone with an addiction be legally convicted as a criminal?

DUI Is Not “Intent” Based Crime

Unlike other crimes with a mes rea requirement, “intent” in not necessary in a DWI charge. Few persons intentionally drive while impaired. They know the risks and want to get home alive. Most believe they have drank responsibly and are safe to drive. Nevertheless, they get stopped by the police and are arrested after “failing” field sobriety tests. And, contrary to public understanding, you can be prosecuted for DUI even if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is below the “legal limit” of 0.08%. That’s right. Even if you “blow” under the legal limit, the State can still prosecute your case. How you get here is not important. Even if you claim someone “put something” in your drink, it is only the act of driving while impaired that matters.

Alcoholism and Juries

Most of our clients are not alcoholics. They have no family history and may not even drink regularly. The usual scenarios in our cases are individuals who have a drink or wine with dinner, a beer or two at the game, or a night out with friends. They have good jobs and any number of options. They can call family or friends or take Uber home. They are responsible and even safety conscious. Many contribute to alcohol advocacy groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Nevertheless, they are arrested for having a scent of alcohol on their breath when headed home. Juries in Mecklenburg County are not very forgiving even in these situations.

alcoholismBut, our alcoholic clients are met with less understanding. True alcoholics fight every day to control their dependency on alcohol. Many have lost everything but still drink everyday. When they relapse, they go big. Over time, their health deteriorates, their finances dwindle, and they face social isolation that only enhances the problem. Most addiction is met with compassion. But DWI cases are treated differently. The reasons are obvious. One person’s addiction when on the road puts us all at risk of serious injury or death. If you are addicted to alcohol, we know you need help. We will defend your criminal case and see what treatment options may be able to help as well. The two situations often help each other. When you get help for your alcoholism, you are also benefiting your legal case.

Alcoholism Trends in Law

Arrests for DWI continue to increase each year despite tougher laws. Not surprisingly, we do not expect any substantive changes in the law for alcoholics facing DWI. However, there are encouraging trends in the law that acknowledge alcoholism as a disease. As part of any probation, NC DWI laws require substance abuse assessments and completion of recommended treatment. In cases where there could be active jail sentences imposed, judges have exercised discretion and given credit for in-patient treatment for alcoholism and negative alcohol reports from SCRAM devices. Several judges here in Mecklenburg County will add Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) meetings in addition to statutory requirements as part of a person’s probation. You can still be held accountable for the crime of DUI, but mercy is available if you get help for their addiction.


Charlotte DWI Attorneys.

At our firm, we will not judge you. Rather, our DWI lawyers are committed to defending your legal rights while at the same time getting you help for your disease. We are caring and compassionate attorneys who will make you feel welcome and appreciated. Don’t be afraid to call us. At a minimum, you should schedule an appointment to see what may can be done in your case.

When we do meet, we will answer your questions and explain the process. Then, after we thoroughly evaluate all evidence, we will sit down again and review your options. At that point, you will have full information and be able to make your best decision on how to proceed. Try not to worry. We will be there beside you every step of the way. Call us now and let’s see what can be done.

*Memberships in legal organizations are not intended to imply any particular expertise or specialization in law. Every case is different, and outcome will be based on individual facts. Only after a careful and thorough review of all evidence can a DUI lawyer make recommendations to a client.