• North Carolina DWI Stop: The Three Levels of Burden of Proof
  • July 2, 2013
  • Law Firm: Matheson Law Office PLLC - Raleigh Office
  • In the event you are faced with North Carolina DWI Charges it is in your best interest to speak with a Raleigh DWI Attorney about your specific case.  While looking into your case, your attorney should discuss with you what is meant by ‘Burden of Proof’ and how it molds with the North Carolina DWI process.  Being a Cary DWI Lawyer I make a point to talk about Burden of Proof with all potential clients so they have an understanding of what it is they are hiring me to defend against.

    The concept ‘Burden of Proof’ is used in reference to what, by definition, the State is ordered to prove in order to win its case.  There are three main burdens of proof that most people are more familiar with in regard to criminal cases, however they seem to think they are used interchangeably.  This is not the case.  Each type involves a varying degree of evidence to satisfy its burden of proof.

    The first burden of proof must be met when a police officer attempts to pull over any Defendant, whether that involves pulling them over or some sort of traffic infraction.  Less often this also encompasses officers detaining individuals who are not in any type of motor vehicle.  This level of proof is referred to as ‘Reasonable Suspicion’, which simply requires a police officer to suspect any kind of criminal activity; taillights, speeding, weaving, so on.

    After Reasonable Suspicion is satisfied, the next burden of proof to be met is known as ‘Probable Cause’.  Probable Cause must be met in order to search a person’s vehicle or person in addition to performing a North Carolina DWI Arrest.  To meet this burden of proof it must be more probable than not that the person has committed the crime they are being accused of committing.  For instance, in the event that an officer decides to search a suspects vehicle there must be ‘probable cause’ that there is evidence residing somewhere in the vehicle in question.   If a person is stopped on foot they could be subject to what is called a ‘Stop and Frisk’, or sometimes it is called a ‘Terry Stop’, which the officer only need reasonable suspicion that the person could be armed with some sort of weapon.  This type of stop is named after the court case Terry v. Ohio where the case attempt to claim that these types of stops were a violation of a persons rights.  A stop and frisk involves the police officer investigating the seen patting down the outer layer of a persons clothes attempting to feel if there is a weapon present.  The only way an officer is allowed to remove something from their person is if the contraband is readily apparent. 

    The final and most substantial burden of proof to be met is ‘Beyond a Reasonable Doubt’, which must be met by the State in order to gain a conviction of the Defendant.  It is the State’s sole job to get the Judge and Jury to believe ‘Beyond a Reasonable Doubt’ that the State has met its Burden of Proof beyond any reason of a doubt.  In todays Judicial System, this is the most substantial and difficult burden of proof to satisfy.

    Should you face a Raleigh DWI Charge or any other type of criminal charge, inquire about Burden of Proof with your Defense attorney or DWI lawyer.

    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.