North Carolina has strict laws prohibiting drivers from driving while impaired (DWI) by alcohol or drugs. When you have been pulled over on suspicion of DWI, as part of his on-sight investigation the officer may request that you take a breath test at the scene to evaluate your impairment. Most officers will say something similar to, “I need you to blow into this for me,” thereby giving you the impression that you have no choice but to comply. However, you are not legally required to take a breath test when you are pulled over by a law enforcement officer for suspicion of impaired driving.
You do have the right to refuse a breath test in North Carolina. However, it is important to understand that, while you have the right to refuse to take any breath test, there are different rules and consequences for refusing to take the roadside test (called an “alcosensor”) and the breath test at the police department (the “intoximeter”).
Penalties for Refusing a Breath Test in North Carolina
From the moment that the law enforcement officer makes the traffic stop, he is looking for “clues” or “indicators” that suggest whether the driver is impaired due to alcohol or drugs. Before asking the driver to exit the vehicle, the officer may make some observations about the driver, looking for characteristics such as glassy eyes, the odor of alcohol, an unwillingness to make eye contact, slurred speech, or difficulty in retrieving a driver’s license or vehicle registration.
The officer may then ask the driver to step out of the vehicle to perform one of three standardized field sobriety tests to look for the presence of pre-defined indicators of impairment. He may also ask the driver to take a portable breath test. The driver can refuse to take any of these tests at the scene, including the portable breath test, without any legal penalty. However, if the officer finds that probable cause does exist to arrest the driver on suspicion of driving while impaired, the officer will likely give the driver an official intoximeter test at the station. Refusing to take an intoximeter test after being arrested does have penalties.
In North Carolina, if you willfully refuse to take a breath test after being arrested, your driver’s license is automatically suspended for 30 days (the “civil revocation”). Additionally, the DMV will suspend the defendant’s driving privilege for a full year if they refuse the breath test. You do have the right to request a Willful Refusal Hearing with the DMV to contest the suspension; however, you must do so within 10 days or lose your right to contest the suspension. Furthermore, your refusal to take a breath test after being arrested can be used against you in court by the prosecution. Additionally, if you refuse the breath test after your arrest, the officer may seek to obtain a search warrant for a blood test. The prosecution will then have your blood alcohol content on top of your refusal to take the breath test to use in court.
If you or a family member has been arrested on charges of driving while impaired, it is imperative that you contact our office as soon as possible. The penalties for DWI in North Carolina are severe. As experienced criminal defense attorneys, we can help you prepare a defense that may potentially keep you out of jail, save you thousands of dollars in fines and prevent you from paying higher insurance rates.
Contact an Experienced Jacksonville DWI Attorney
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The Trevor J. Avery Law Firm, LLP is a full-service Jacksonville Criminal and Civil law firm that is committed to providing results-driven legal representation to businesses and individuals seeking an alternative to large-firm representation. We focus on getting you the results you want while offering you a cost-effective solution to your legal needs. We understand that we work for our clients; therefore; our attorneys communicate regularly with each client to ensure that the client knows what is going with the case.
When you have legal problems, you need an experienced legal professional in your corner. No matter the case, you should have an attorney working for you who knows the law and who has the experience to get results. We represent clients throughout Duplin County, Onslow County and the surrounding communities. Call our office at (910) 405-8459 or contact us online today for a free case evaluation.
To learn more, please download our free sobriety tests in North Carolina report here.