Victory at Court of Appeals: Duress and DWI

We just won a major appeal at the North Carolina Court of Appeals in a Driving While Impaired case. We’ve had this case from day one, where our client was forced to drive away from a bar where a man had pulled a gun on him. The law provides that in cases where someone is forced to commit a crime in order to avoid some greater harm – death or serious injury to himself or another – the law will excuse his commission of the crime.

Even though the law is clear that such a defense exists, and even though North Carolina has recognized that a duress or necessity defense exists in DWI cases, the trial court denied us the instruction or even the right to argue the matter to the jury. The jury, having been improperly instructed, found our client guilty.

We immediately appealed the judgment to the Court of Appeals, and then argued in briefs to the Court that the trial judge had erred in failing to properly instruct the jury on the law of necessity and duress.

The Court of Appeals handed down the decision today, unanimously (3-0) deciding in our favor, and vacating the DWI conviction and sending the case back for a possible re-trial.

A copy of the opinion is available here.

Needless to say, we are thrilled with the result and look forward to continuing to defend this matter should the State file a Petition for Discretionary Review.

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Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.