So, you went out for a drink or two with friends and now you are on your way home when you get pulled over and you are scared of catching a North Carolina DWI Charge. You panic, not knowing what to do, what to say, what you are required to do, what you are not required to do, etc. Well, as a Raleigh DWI Attorney and Raleigh DWI Lawyer, many of my clients talk to me about what they did, and what they SHOULD HAVE DONE when being stopped. The reality is, a small group of people really know what you should do during these types of stops, and they include North Carolina DWI Defense Lawyers, North Carolina Prosecutors, and the police officers conducting these types of stops. The average person does not know, and is expected not to know, what to do. This results in many DWI convictions which may have been avoided if the Driver had followed some basic steps. This article will be written to give very basic suggestions on what to do when being stopped in North Carolina when the Driver may have had something to drink.
First, let me be clear, I don't advocate drinking and driving. In fact, I am very particular about myself, my family and friends with regards to this in the hopes that my knowledge will help them understand how EASY it is to catch a DWI charge and therefore it is just not worth the risk of driving after having a few drinks (and of course the inherent danger imposed on the general public by drinking and driving). That being said, the North Carolina DWI Law, Field Sobriety Tests, and other efforts taken by the State are designed to result in DWI convictions, which put the average driver at a disadvantage. If more people were conscious of what rights they had, and what they should, hopefully they will avoid drinking and driving, but if they find themselves in that awkward situation, they'll at least know their rights.
First, when being pulled, attempt to calmly and carefully pull over your vehicle as safely as possible. Do not jerk the wheel or slam on the brakes. When the Officer approaches, always be polite and respectful; Police Officer's jobs are hard enough, they don't need someone being rude, and chances are, it will work against you; any Raleigh Traffic Attorney will tell you this!. When they pull you over, they may suspect you have been drinking, or they smell it on you, either way, you are not obligated to admit anything. When they ask if you had been drinking, or how many you've had, you can simply tell them you respect what they do, but you are not answering any questions: DO NOT LIE! There is a difference between not answering the questions, and lying to them.
The Officer may ask you to perform some tests while you are seated in the vehicle. Again, politely refuse to perform these tests. You are not obligated to perform them and cannot be punished for refusing them.
The Officer may ask you to exit the vehicle, if they do, exit the vehicle. The Officer has a right to feel safe when interacting with the public and this is one thing they are allowed to request of driver's. Just be sure to exit the vehicle as normal as possible; do not use the door to pull yourself up, do not stumble out, etc.
Once out of the vehicle, the Officer may ask you to perform Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, you are allowed to refuse to perform ALL of these tests. Again, their are no consequences to refusing to perform them, and SERIOUS consequences if you do perform them (mainly, it's harder to defend your case should you be charged).
The Officer may also ask you to blow into a portable, handheld breathalyzer machine known as an Alcosenor. You can refuse this as well without consequence.
After all of this, the Officer must decide whether they have enough Probable Cause to arrest you for suspicion of DWI, and they may very well arrest you even though you refused all of these tests. And though not being charged would be a better out come, by refusing all of these tests, you have at least limited the evidence the State has against you and could potential avoid a conviction with a good Cary DWI Attorney.
If arrested, they Officer will take you to one of their offices where they will request you to blow in a desktop Breathalyzer machine known as an Intoximeter. This is they only Test the Officer can request of you which carries with it consequences should you refuse. In North Carolina, if you refuse to blow in this machine, your license can be suspended for 1 year by the DMV. Worst, if you refuse, the Officer may get a warrant and draw your blood, in which case, they will still have a blood/alcohol result in which to attempt to convict you. It is up to each individual DWI defendant to decide for themselves whether to refuse this test or not, and this article does not suggest one way or the other what to do when facing this decision.
So, in short, do not answer any questions, do not admit drinking, do not blow in the handheld breathalyzer, do not perform any tests in your vehicle, do not perform any tests on the roadside outside of your vehicle and if you are still arrested, decide for yourself what to do when asked to blow in the Intoxilzyer.
If you have been charged with a North Carolina DWI, seek the advice of a local DWI Defense Attorney on how best to handle your case.
Disclaimer - Information and advice offered in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and is specific to North Carolina law. The viewing, receipt and/or exchange of information from this article does not constitute an Attorney-Client Relationship. For assistance regarding your particular legal question speak with an Attorney practicing in the field from which your questions derives.