In North Carolina, even if you are not the one behind the wheel during a drunk driving incident, you can still be criminally charged. It’s a shocking charge called “Aid and Abet DWI” and is applicable to a passenger in a vehicle that is being driven by a drunk driver. The claim by law enforcement and the state is typically that the passenger was aware that the driver was impaired and allowed that person to drive, even having that knowledge. In theory, it’s meant to be another deterrent in having drunk drivers on the road, but it has some major flaws.
In 2013 alone, nearly 2000 people were charged with aiding and abetting. For purposes of sentencing, this charge is punished the same way as a first time DWI – meaning a level 5. This includes 24 hours of jail or community service, a license suspension, probation, and court costs and fines.
Here’s the flaw with the charge: it’s nearly impossible to successfully prosecute. Why would someone let another person drive drunk and choose to be the passenger? Usually when the passenger has had more to drink than the driver, who would have been charged with DWI at the same time the passenger was charged with aiding and abetting. But aiding and abetting is a crime that requires the offender to make conscious choices about letting someone else drive knowing that the person was appreciably impaired. If the passenger was drunk, how are they capable of logically making that decision? The answer: they can’t, which is why very few of these cases are ever tried – the intent can’t be proven if the passenger was impaired himself. Another prong to this is if the passenger wasn’t aware that the driver was impaired, or at least, appreciably impaired. How can a prosecutor prove this?
So, an aiding and abetting charge is bad because it’s a criminal charge, it has consequences, and you are going to have to spend money on an attorney to fight it. But the good news is that a good Raleigh DWI attorney will know how to navigate through the court system, often resulting in a dismissal of the charges or a not guilty finding.