Many young adults are aware of the different field tests used to test driver sobriety: walk a straight line, count backwards by thousands, or stand on one leg. Hopefully, they know these tests from pop culture references, rather than experience. Driving while intoxicated is no joke, however, and North Carolina police treat it very seriously. For the past 10 years, the State Highway Patrol has made more than 20,000 DWI arrests per year. Therefore, it is imperative to understand your rights when pulled over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
The Best Defense . . . is not doing it. Naturally, we have to caveat this advice post with a strong recommendation not to drink and drive. The safety implications are well known. Moreover, the legal ramifications are severe: loss of license, community service requirements, forfeiture of vehicle, jail time, and a criminal record are just some of the bad things risked by getting behind the wheel intoxicated.
But we understand that people make mistakes. We also understand that people can be wrongly accused, for instance in a situation where a driver is very tired and appears to be intoxicated. Therefore, we hope that you will remember your rights when you are pulled over and the officer requests that you do field sobriety tests under suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
Silence is Golden. Many individuals may understand that Miranda warnings (You have a right to remain silent . . . ) are given to criminals when they are arrested. Yet, many people do not know that they have a right to stay silent when they are questioned by a police officer. What you tell a police officer can and will be used against you if it supports a charge of wrongdoing.
Naturally, there is a certain nervousness and awe created when being questioned by the police, a fear that can force an individual to answer. This fear is only compounded in the mind of someone who feels they might have been caught doing something wrong. In situations involving DWI suspicion, however, the best advice is to be respectful to the officer, but to tell them you would prefer not to answer questions asked. In the alternative, tell the officer that you would rather consult with your attorney before answering any questions. The officer will continue to ask, but your answer should always stay the same.
It is equally important not to lie when asked questions. Nervous lies are typically obvious, and not very good. If a statement can be proven a lie, it can be used as evidence of guilt in court. So again, remain silent.
Just Say No.
- The Bad News: When you get behind the wheel of a car on North Carolina roads, you have given implied consent to a chemical analysis test if an officer has probable cause to believe you are driving while impaired. Refusing this tests results in a suspension of your driving privileges, and can in some instances be used as evidence of your knowledge of guilt.
- The Good News: This consent does not include field sobriety tests or portable breathalyzer tests. These tests can only be used against you to establish probable cause or actual guilt, and should be declined. Therefore, when an officer asks you to walk a straight line, count backwards, or blow into a portable breathalyzer, your answer can be a respectful “No, thank you.”
Following these rules is a good step towards avoiding a DWI charge. If you are charged with a DWI, however, it is crucial that you consult a criminal defense attorney who can zealously advocate for your rights. At the very least, a defense attorney experienced in these matters can present strong arguments advocating for a light sentence and a quick return of driving privileges. The criminal defense attorneys at Remington & Dixon have experience in zealously defending against DWI charges. Set up a consultation today to put our experience to work for you by calling (704)817-9050 .
Brandon double-majored in Political Science and Criminal Justice at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He earned his Juris Doctor from Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Florida. Throughout his career, Brandon has received numerous awards and recognition from his peers and agencies that rate attorneys. A few of these awards are from The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Trial Lawyer in 2014, The National Trial Lawyers: Top 40 Under 40 in 2014, Nation’s Top One Percent: National Association of Distinguished Counsel in 2015, Super Lawyers: Rising Stars in 2018 and 2019, and North Carolina Business Magazine: Legal Elite in 2019, among others.