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It is common knowledge that someone may be charged with DWI if he or she is driving a vehicle while impaired. It is possible to be charged with a DWI, however, without ever driving the vehicle. At first glance you are probably wondering how that even works if you never drove a vehicle, and after all the crime is called “driving while impaired.” North Carolina allows for the crime of aiding and abetting a DWI. If someone is convicted of aiding and abetting a DWI the punishment is equivalent to a Level 5 DWI Sentence, which includes a suspension of license for 12 months, as well as insurance increase of over 300%!
Someone is guilty of aiding and abetting when he or is “present, actually or constructively, with the intent to aid the perpetrators in the commission of the offense should his assistance become necessary and…such intent was communicated to the actual perpetrators.” State v. Sanders, 288 N.C. 285, 290-91 (1975). Just being present in the vehicle at the time of the DWI, however, is not enough. The State would have to show that the passenger either knew or should have known that the driver was impaired and that the passenger somehow participated beyond just being in the vehicle. What exactly that participation level must be may vary depending on the facts in the individual case, but just being aware that the driver had been drinking is likely still not going to be enough. See Smith v. Winn-Dixie Charlotte, Inc., 142 N.C. App. 255 (2001).
With this in mind if you are a passenger in a vehicle where the driver is suspected of DWI be aware that you may face a DWI charge in North Carolina. Remember you do not have to answer police questions which may serve to incriminate you. The most common scenario occurs when the owner of the vehicle is riding with someone charged with DWI and they are a passenger. Another scenario occurs when the passenger admits to the Officer that both him and driver were drunk or had been drinking for many hours. It is always important to never incrminate yourself, your own words always get you in the end.
If you should find yourself in a situation where you have been charged with a DWI you need to contact an attorney who has the experience and knowledge necessary to handle your case with the care it deserves. We defend DWIs and DUIs in Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, Pineville, Cornelius, Huntersville, Lake Norman, Pineville, Matthews, Mint Hill, and UNCC. For a private, confidential consultation with one of our experienced DWI lawyers, please call 704-499-9000 or toll-free 877-374-5999 even on weekends or holidays.