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Elements of DUI in North Carolina

North Carolina’s DUI statute can be found at NC Gen. Stat. § 20-138.1.  In order to be convicted, a person must drive any vehicle upon any highway, any street, or any public vehicular area within the State while (1) under the influence of alcohol or, (2) having a BAC of .08 or more or, (3) with any amount of Schedule I substance in his/her blood or urine.  In North Carolina, the distinction between DUI and DWI has been abolished.  Furthermore, North Carolina does not have an “aggravated” or “felony” DUI statute, but does allow for sentence enhancements based on the presence of aggravating and grossly aggravating factors.

In North Carolina, the term vehicle is defined as any device by which a person may be transported on a highway, unless the device uses human power.  The exception for human powered devices does not include bicycles.  Also, the definition excepts devices that are used for assisted mobility (such as motorized wheelchairs) and horses.  Outside of these limited exceptions, a driver in North Carolina can be charged with DUI for driving any vehicle in a public vehicular area, including parking lots.

Just as every state in the United States, a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more is, by law, intoxicated.  BAC measures the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood, and can be measured using breath, blood, and urine tests.  However, simply having a BAC level below .08% does not mean that a driver cannot be charged and convicted of a DUI in North Carolina.  At a DUI trial, prosecutors are allowed to use evidence other than a BAC level to show that the person driving the vehicle was impaired to the level required to be considered “under the influence.”  Many times, this evidence will come from the arresting officer’s direct testimony and/or statements made by the driver at the time of the incident.

The statute makes it illegal for person’s to drive a vehicle with any Schedule I controlled substance in their blood or urine.  In North Carolina, Schedule I substances are listed in NC Gen. Stat. § 90-89.  However, without a chemical or drug related background, it is difficult to determine which substances are included in this list without consulting with a medical professional, attorney, or law enforcement official in North Carolina.  Illegal substances (marijuana, cocaine, heroin, etc.) can lead to a DUI charge, as well as prescription medications, even when used in the proscribed dosage.


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