North Carolina DWI/Traffic Stops | Your Right to Refuse

I believe I have cased over this topic in previous blogs, but this is of such importance, I feel I need to go over it once more (and probably will periodically in hopes of it helping potential DWI Defendant’s). For those faced with a North Carolina DWI Stop, and specifically a Raleigh DWI Stop many things happen very quickly for which you are likely not prepared for. As a Raleigh DWI Lawyer and Cary DWI Lawyer, most of my clients address their concerns with me regarding what happened during their stop and what it means. What I am speaking about specifically is the questioning, the pre-exit tests, Field Sobriety Test and the Portable Breathalyzer Test. Obviously, there is more to a DWI stop (and eventual arrest) for which a Defendant can be confused, but this article is going to focus on the pre-arrest steps that the Police Officer takes and what options you have available for you.

First, and most important, ALL requests of the Driver which occurs prior to the Driver being arrested CAN (AND SHOULD) BE REFUSED! That’s right, refuse to answer questions, refuse to participate in pre-exit tests (normally in the form of counting, alphabet or finger dexterity tests), refuse to participate in any Field Sobriety Tests and refuse to blow into the Portable Breathalyzer Test (not to be confused with the Intoxilyzer or Intoximeter, which are the machines you blow in after your arrest). Each and every one of these functions of a DWI stop are done voluntarily and you have the right to refuse to do any of them. Though you may still be arrested if you refuse to participate, you are doing yourself a favor by refusing in assisting me with your North Carolina DWI Defense.

You see, these tests serve two purposes for the Police Officer: 1. they allow them to build enough evidence to find Probable Cause to justify your arrest and 2. they are used as evidence against you at your trial and/or North Carolina DWI Sentencing. Most people do not know that these questions and tests are participated in voluntarily and normally agree to do them for one of two reasons; either because they believe they are required to cooperate or they believe it will help them with their ticket. The fact is, there is no requirement to consent to any of these tests and no requirement to answer the Police Officer’s questions. Additionally, unless you stone-cold sober, chances are performing these tests are not going to get you out of being arrested and certainly will not help if you have been drinking.

Worse then these misconceptions about what a Driver is required to do is the fact that Police Officers are aware that people have the misconceptions and use that to their advantage. I can’t tell you how many times my clients have told me that an officer “asked” them to perform a test by simply saying “I’m going to have you perform some tests, okay?” The phrasing carries with it the tone that the Officer is acting within the scope of what they can have you do. I’ve even had one client tell me his Officer told him “I’m going to have you perform one more test, then I’ll probably let you go.” The Officer said this after each of the three Field Sobriety Tests and, as you can guess considering he is my client, ended up arresting him.

Lastly, just to be sure we are completely clear, what I have recommended with regards to refusing to participate in any pre-arrest questions and/or tests does not carry over to post-arrest where the Driver is asked to blow into the Intoxilyzer or Intoximeter. This request to blow is done under North Carolina’s Implied Consent Law and carries with it a mandatory one-year suspension of driving privileges if you refuse. Additionally, the Driver will not be able to get a Limited Driving Privilege for the first 6 months. Lastly, if the Driver refuses, the Officer can still get a warrant and draw their blood for evidence. For these reasons, whether to refuse the Intoxilyzer or Intoximeter is a personal decision which every individual needs to make and I make no recommendations one way or the other.

So, if you are ever facing a DWI stop, remember to refuse to answer any questions and refuse to participate in any tests.

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