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Refusing a breath test in North Carolina during a DWI stop

On Behalf of | Apr 17, 2020 | Criminal Defense

Getting pulled over is a scary experience for anyone, and the fear can be amplified if the officer suspects you of drunk driving. If an officer reasonably suspects that you are impaired based on your driving, he or she may stop your vehicle and perform a limited investigation. During this investigation, the officer may ask you to submit to a Breathalyzer test to determine your blood alcohol concentration. If you submit to the test and your results indicate that you were impaired behind the wheel (typically, a BAC level of .08 or higher), the results of the test can be used to convict you of a DWI.

Under North Carolina’s implied consent law, N.C.G.S. 20-16-2, your driver’s license comes with an understanding that you automatically consent to chemical testing if you are suspected of a DWI or other implied-consent offense. Many people assume that this means you have to comply with the officer’s request to submit to a Breath test. However, this is not the case. Implied consent laws state that you can refuse to submit to chemical testing, but that your license will be automatically revoked for a minimum of one year if you do so. This revocation will be in place regardless of whether you are eventually convicted of a DWI or not. You may be granted limited driving privileges, but these often do not come right away, meaning you will have to be without your license for at least a few months.

While you may temporarily have your license revoked, refusing a Breath test may prove to be advantageous. Breath test results are often a key piece of evidence in prosecutors’ cases against drunk drivers. Without these results, it will be much more difficult to prove your guilt, although it is still possible to do so. Keep in mind that an officer can obtain a search warrant allowing for a blood test, even if you refused the breath test.

If you were arrested on a DWI charge, a criminal defense attorney in your area may be able to help. After reviewing the details of your case, your attorney will help come up with an effective defense strategy to avoid conviction.