Can I Refuse A Breathalyzer in North Carolina?

Can I Refuse A Breathalyzer in North Carolina?

Suppose the police pull you over in the Winston-Salem area because they suspect you’re intoxicated. They may then ask you to take a breathalyzer test. This test measures the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in your body.

Learn if North Carolina law requires you to take a breathalyzer if there are any consequences for refusing, and how to fight DWI charges.

What Happens if You Refuse a Breathalyzer in North Carolina?

An officer pulls you over and asks you to step out of the car for a breathalyzer test. If you refuse, they can’t arrest you, right? Not so fast. You break the law just by refusing a breath or blood test, even if you don’t have any alcohol in your system.

According to the North Carolina Department of Safety, the consequences for refusing a breathalyzer are:

  • Immediate 30-day revocation of your driver’s license
  • An additional one-year revocation after your hearing- If denied.

The courts may reinstate limited driving privileges after six months. Not having a license makes it difficult to attend work, bring your kids to school, and take care of other obligations.

3 Steps to Take if You’re Pulled Over for DWI in Winston-Salem

Any traffic stop is nerve-wracking, and it’s easy to panic. Remain calm and follow these three steps to protect your legal rights.

1. Don’t Answer Police Questions

If law enforcement stops you because they suspect you are drunk, they may start asking you questions. Where are you going? How much have you drunk tonight? The law does not require you to respond to these questions. It’s wise not to attempt to talk yourself out of an arrest because law enforcement can use your statements against you if they press charges.

You do, however, need to comply with an officer’s request to see your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and insurance information.

2. Decline a Field Sobriety Test

Suppose law enforcement suspects you are driving under the influence. In that case, they may ask you to step out of the car and participate in a field sobriety test. These tests may include walking and turning, following a moving object with your eyes, counting backward, and more. Physical activities like these can be challenging to perform under any circumstance and put those with certain disabilities at a disadvantage. Imagine doing these tasks with lights flashing in your eyes and traffic speeding past you. If you have a physical disability, inform the Officer on the scene.

You have the legal right to refuse a roadside sobriety test. Field sobriety tests are a way for law enforcement to gather evidence against you and bolster the prosecution. There is no benefit in participating in a field sobriety test, as the police can still arrest you even if you “pass.”

3. Ask to Speak with a Lawyer

If law enforcement arrests you, you have the right to contact your attorney. If the police continue to ask questions, politely refuse. Tell them that you will not answer any questions without your lawyer present.

What Is the Legal BAC in North Carolina?

The highest legal BAC you can have depends, in part, on your age and what type of vehicle you’re operating.

  • It is illegal for people under 21 to have alcohol in their system while driving (§ 20-138.3).
  • The legal limit for individuals 21 and older is 0.08 (§ 20-138.1).
  • State law prohibits commercial drivers (§ 20-138.2A) and school bus drivers (§ 20-138.2B) from operating a vehicle after drinking.

Law enforcement can arrest you if you show signs of impairment, even if your BAC is lower than these limits.

How Do I Fight a DWI Charge in North Carolina?

The biggest mistake people make is downplaying a DWI arrest. These are serious charges that require the skill and expertise of a DWI lawyer. The state’s DWI laws are more complex and nuanced than people may realize.

A conviction can affect you and your family for years. North Carolina residents with a DWI record face some of the highest car insurance rates in the nation. On average, a conviction will raise your insurance premiums by a whopping 319%.

The best way you can fight a DWI charge is to invoke your right to remain silent and contact an attorney.

Is a DWI a Felony in North Carolina?

A DWI may be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the specifics of your arrest and any prior convictions.

  • State law classifies misdemeanor DWIs as Level A1 through Level V, with Level A1 being the most serious. Even a Level V DWI comes with a monetary fine and jail sentence of 24 hours up to 60 days.
  • A felony Habitual DWI conviction results in a one-year jail sentence that the courts cannot suspend. Habitual DWI offenders have had four DWI convictions within the last 10 years. The law requires felony offenders to complete a substance abuse program.

North Carolina courts take driving while intoxicated seriously.

Contact a Winston-Salem DWI Defense Attorney Today

Our DWI defense lawyers will fight for the best possible outcome for your case. Contact our office to schedule your consultation.

Author Bio

Derek M. Gray

Derek Gray is a Partner of McMinn, Logan & Gray, a North Carolina criminal defense law firm. With more than 15 years of experience in criminal defense, he has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including DUIs, misdemeanors, felonies, domestic violence, and other criminal charges.

Derek received his Juris Doctor from the North Carolina Central School of Law in 2007 and is a member of the North Carolina State Bar Association. With his experience as a former Assistant District Attorney, he has represented more than 1,000 criminal defense clients in North Carolina and received more than 100 5-star Google ratings.

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