Roadside DWI tests are not obligatory in North Carolina

On Behalf of | Feb 2, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

You can assume the North Carolina police officer who has pulled you over suspects intoxication if he or she instructs you to exit your vehicle. Perhaps the officer witnessed your tires breaching the yellow line while driving or noticed that you weren’t using headlights after dusk. These and many other issues constitute justifiable reasons for a traffic stop. However, to make a DWI arrest, one must establish probable cause.

One of the swiftest means of establishing probable cause during a traffic stop is to ask the driver to take a breath test or field sobriety test. There are typically three field tests that police use to ascertain whether a driver is exhibiting signs of intoxication. Such tests include the walk-and-turn test, horizontal gaze nystagmus test and the one-leg stance test.

You cannot face arrest for DWI for refusing to take these tests

None of the tests mentioned (including the roadside breath test) are obligatory. You cannot incur any legal or administrative penalty for refusing to take a preliminary alcohol screening test during a traffic stop. If someone has told you that the police can arrest you for refusing a field sobriety or roadside breath test, you have received misinformation.

This does not mean, however, that, if you refuse to take such tests, you will not face arrest for suspected DWI. The officer might establish probable cause some other way, such as discovering an open container of alcohol on the floor of your car. Also, if you refuse to take a preliminary screening test and end up facing DWI charges, prosecutors may try to take advantage of the fact that you refused the tests, as though you had something to hide.

Know your rights and how to defend them

Facing DWI charges in a North Carolina court can be a frightening experience. The more you understand about your rights and the criminal justice system, the less stressful proceedings might be. In some cases, such as if you were driving a commercial vehicle when the police arrested you or if you are a licensed professional, a DWI arrest can have far-reaching implications and may even place your career at risk.

On the bright side, not every DWI case results in a conviction. In fact, a judge dismisses many cases without them ever going to trial. For example, if you have evidence to prove that police officers conducted an unlawful search or did not have probable cause for an arrest, the judge might dismiss your case. Either way, you have the best chance of obtaining a positive outcome by relying on experienced representation during all interactions with the court.