DWI Checkpoints FAQs Continued

Many drivers in North Carolina may be unaware that simply by driving on any public roadways in the state, they have consented to having their breath, blood or urine drawn in order to test for the presence and/or amount of alcohol. North Carolina's "implied consent" law provides for stiff penalties to drivers who refuse an officer's request to submit to an alcohol breath test. If it is a driver's first arrest for DWI, the driver's license may be suspended for a year for refusing to submit to an alcohol breath test. Multiple DWI offenders may face longer mandatory license suspensions, among other penalties.

If a driver refuses to take an alcohol breath test, the arresting officer must inform the driver in writing that one's license shall be suspended for at least a year due to the refusal. When an accused's case is tried in a court of law, a prosecutor may use the fact that a driver refused to submit to alcohol testing as evidence of the driver's guilt.

Do I have to Perform Field sobriety tests?

Field sobriety tests are very different from alcohol breath tests. Alcohol breath tests measure the amount of alcohol contained in a person's breath. This is accomplished through the blowing of air into a chamber in a breath-alcohol testing device, triggering a chemical reaction which is able to detect the presence and amount of alcohol metabolites. Field sobriety tests, on the other hand, are used by police officers as a means of gathering observable evidence that could be used to either confirm or nullify their suspicions regarding impairment.

Many officers ask drivers under suspicion to walk heel-to-toe along a straight line, to stand on one leg, and to recite a portion of the alphabet. A driver's performance on each of these tests may be used against him or her as evidence of impairment at a DWI trial. Unlike alcohol breath tests, however, a driver can refuse to perform field-sobriety tests without penalty.

Do I have any options when I am pulled over and asked to take a breath test?

Many drivers who are suspected of or arrested for DWI may not realize that they have a number of rights that may be exercised during the investigation into their suspected impaired driving. First, if an officer asks a driver to submit to an alcohol breath test, he or she must inform the driver that he or she has the right to call a witness to view the administration of the test. The driver also has the right to consult with an attorney.

Having a witness or attorney present while an alcohol breath test is administered may help a driver accused of driving while impaired to gather evidence or to present defenses in one's favor. The improper handling of or failure to follow proper protocols while administering the breath test, for instance, may affect whether the results of an alcohol breath test are admissible in court. If a driver does exercise one's right to have witnesses or an attorney present during alcohol breath testing, the right must be exercised promptly. In general, police officers are not obliged to wait more than about thirty (30) minutes for witnesses or an attorney to arrive before administering the test.

The best thing a driver who is stopped at a DWI checkpoint can do is maintain a calm and reserved demeanor. Drivers should always be respectful and courteous to police officers and should avoid volunteering unnecessary information or any potential evidence that could negatively impact a driver at trial.

DWI convictions carry serious short-term and long-term consequences. While the circumstances of each DWI case are unique, it will suffice to say that there are numerous ways to defend against DWI charges, and the attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC have a wealth of experience at fighting DWI charges at every stage in the legal process - from the time a driver is pulled over to the administration of the alcohol breath test and on to motions practice and trials. Call us 24 hours a day at (704) 370-2828 or Contact Us Here. Let our attorneys protect your legal rights.