Motta & Muñoz, PLLC

Providing legal services to the greater Triangle area.

Driving While Intoxicated Information

Driving While Impaired (DWI) is one of the most litigious crimes in the NC courts today.   More scrutiny is placed on DWI cases than any other, as decisions made by the District Attorney’s office as well as the local Judges are checked and evaluated by groups throughout the state.  Groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and other anti-drunk driver organizations have pushed many DWI cases to the front page of local newspapers.

A higher percentage of DWI cases go to trial than virtually any other crime, including murder.  If you are charged with a DWI, you want an attorney who is skilled in defending a DWI, one who knows what the State needs to prove, and how the defense can best attack the weaknesses in the State’s case.  Stephen Motta is the attorney for you.  Stephen has worked for over eight years as an assistant district attorney (“ADA”) in five NC counties (including Orange and Chatham counties for over five years), and in that time he has tried hundreds of DWI cases in both District and Superior courts.  Since opening his private practice in 2010, he has successfully defended people with DWI charges by using his experience that he gained as an ADA: by spotting the weaknesses in the State’s case, and attacking those weaknesses to the client’s advantage.


DWI Defense & Litigation

There are three main hurdles that the State has to clear in order to prove that a person has committed the crime of DWI:  reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle; probable cause to arrest; and proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver was appreciably impaired.

A person commits the offense of impaired driving if he

1)      drives any vehicle

2)      upon any highway, any street, or any public vehicular area within this State:

3)      while

  1. under the influence of an impairing substance; or
  2. after having consumed sufficient alcohol that he has, at any relevant time after the driving, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.

The results of a chemical analysis shall be deemed sufficient evidence to prove a person’s alcohol concentration.


  • Reasonable Suspicion to Stop
    • A police officer must have at least reasonable suspicion in order to stop a motorist suspected of driving while impaired.  This standard is for the Judge to determine: whether a reasonable person would make the determination that a person committed the crime, given the same facts and circumstances.  It has to be more than a hunch.
    • Motta & Muñoz has been successful with motions to dismiss DWI’s based on a lack of reasonable suspicion. Please give us a call at (919) 321-8277 for a free consultation.


  • Probable Cause to Arrest
    • The standard needed for an officer to arrest is greater than that for a stop: a police officer needs probable cause to arrest.  Probable cause has been defined in NC courts as being more likely than not that a crime has been committed, and more likely than not that the defendant is the one who committed that crime.  With a DWI, an officer must testify that he formed an opinion based on his observations that a person is appreciable, or noticeably, impaired before he placed him under arrest.  The officer uses several Field Sobriety Tests (“FST”) such as the Walk and Turn (“W&T”), One Legged Stand (“OLS”), and Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (“HGN”) and the finger to nose test, to establish probable cause to arrest.  Three tests, the W&T, OLS, and HGN are considered Standardized FSTs, because they have been approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  Many times the arresting officer is not sure exactly what it is he is looking for when conducting these tests!  If the NHTSA tests are not conducted properly, the results do not come in against the accused.  As a former prosecutor, Stephen Motta has tried hundreds of DWI cases, and knows how to question officers to expose mistakes that were made when conducting these tests.
    • The Motta & Muñoz law firm has successfully challenged this standard in court. Please give us a call at (919) 321-8277 to discuss your case with us.


  • EC/IR II Issues
    • In most DWI cases, the State will try to introduce into evidence results taken from the EC/IR II Intoximeter machine that captures breath alcohol from the accused individual after he or she has been arrested.  However, there are many steps that an officer must take before properly administering this test.  Any mistakes made by the office can cause this reading to be thrown out of court.  Stephen Motta has the experience of over 100 trials for DWI cases, and knows how to ensure that every possible defense to your DWI case is explored and investigated prior to entering the courtroom.
    • Give us a call at (919) 321-8277 to discuss your case today.


DWI Punishments

According to North Carolina Statute (N.C.G.S. 20-179), punishments for a DWI conviction depend upon past records and certain facts and circumstances about the current DWI conviction (if someone was injured, any youths in the vehicle, prior DWIs, etc.).  Here are the minimum and maximum punishments based on the 6 levels of punishment that exist in NC:                                        (Note:   C.S. means Community Service)


Level                     Minimum Sentence                                 Maximum Sentence


Level 1                  120 days in Prison                                     Three Years in prison / $10,000 fine


Level 1                   30 days in Jail                                               Two Years in prison / $4,000 fine

Level 2                   7 days in Jail                                                  One Year in prison / $2,000 fine


Level 3                   72 hours of C.S. (or 72 hours in jail)               6 months in prison / $1000 fine


Level 4                   48 hours of C.S. (or 48 hours in jail)               120 days in prison / $500 fine


Level 5                   24 hours of C.S. (or 24 hours in jail)                 60 days in prison / $200 fine