Should I “Blow” If Arrested for DWI | Charlotte DUI Attorneys
Let’s begin with some basic facts. First, the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County consistently have the highest number of DWI arrests in North Carolina. Second, no matter why a vehicle is initially stopped, the officer will convert to a full DWI investigation the instant that the officer smells alcohol. Third, the driver is going to be arrested, handcuffed, and charged with DWI. And finally, once arrested, NC “implied consent” laws have effectively eliminated your previous “choice” of whether to “blow.” I’ll explain further below.
The high number of DWI arrests in Charlotte is easy to understand. Mecklenburg County is affluent, with many restaurants, bars, and sports facilities. We have it all right here. All sports are represented – football, basketball, baseball, and even hockey. And what goes with sporting events? Beer and liquor. That is one of the reasons why we receive so many DWI calls on the weekends. We also have some of the best restaurants with detailed martini lists and seemingly endless numbers of specialty beers. We also have routine police checkpoints near downtown and outlying areas.
Law enforcement agencies including the North Carolina Highway Patrol, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, and other local municipal police, are out in force and actively looking for “drunk” or “impaired” drivers. While we all appreciate their efforts to keep our roads safe, the sheer volume of arrests results in “good folks getting lumped in with the bad.” We have DWI clients that are prosecuted even when their blood alcohol level (BAC) is below the so-called “legal limit” of 0.08%. In those cases, they are depicted as being “materially and appreciably impaired” which makes them unsafe to operate a vehicle. And recently, the federal government has begun considering lowering the BAC level yet again, this time to 0.05.
Not every DWI arrest begins with a suspicion of “impaired driving.” Vehicles are stopped for many reasons, including faulty equipment or expired tags. However, once the officer smells alcohol, the ordinary traffic stop turns into a DWI investigation. Here is a physiological truth about alcohol. Even if you were to ingest just a teaspoon, you will still have the smell of alcohol on your breath. There is simply no way to tell how much a person has consumed by the odor of alcohol. So everyone is described the same way in police reports. And once noted, you will be subjected to a DWI screening procedure that almost always results in arrest.
Here’s why no matter what you do next, you will most probably be charged, handcuffed, and put in the back of the police vehicle. Let’s say you declare you are perfectly fine to drive and respectfully decline any tests. Well, you know what will happen. So let’s assume you agree to try to perform the roadside “field sobriety tests.” These tests are difficult, if not impossible, to successfully complete under the best of circumstances. But on the side of the road in the middle of night while being investigated for DWI?
Eye exams are usually conducted in a controlled light setting with no exterior distractions. Flashing blue lights, passing cars, and a number of other stimuli could affect the results. Walking on an imaginary line “heel to toe” with your arms by your sides is simply not the way God designed us to move about. We naturally have a certain gait and use our arms to balance. And finally, standing on one leg with our arms at our sides is not natural. Nevertheless, these are the “standardized” tests that are used to “convict” us at the road and in court. As you can see, once the process gets started, you should plan on spending some time in custody. Once you arrive at the station, the next stage in the process is the “breathalyzer” and whether to “blow” or not?
All states, including North Carolina, have passed implied consent laws that basically mandate your consent to be tested for DWI if you drive on the road. Under these laws, refusing to submit to chemical analysis will result in immediate civil punishment that are imposed before any criminal conviction. You will automatically lose your license for one year. Now here is where the law get a bit confusing. You still have a Constitutional “right” under the 5th Amendment to refuse to incriminate yourself.
However, driving is only a “privilege” that can be taken away if you don’t submit to breath testing. And, with changes in the law, even that “choice” has now been reduced to near meaninglessness. If you decline to voluntarily relent to breath testing, the State of North Carolina can take you to a medical facility and forcibly take a blood sample against your will. It has been built into the law. It does not matter whether this is your first DWI arrest or whether you have hurt anyone. Just have a drink with your dinner and get stopped on the way home.
So, what is the answer to the question posed above? Well, in classic legal ease, it will depend. Now that you understand the real consequences of refusing the breath test on your ability to drive, you may be inclined to always give a sample. But, also be aware that if you register at or above 0.15%, you may be subjected to possible time in jail and/or an ignition interlock in your vehicle that is expensive and not totally reliable. You may find yourself on the side of the road in a car that will not start whether you have been drinking or not. If you have had a substantial amount to drink over a short period of time with little to eat, you SHOULD NOT submit to breath testing.
Even though the State has the right now to draw your blood, they do not always exercise that option. Better to have a “refusal” than a high BAC level. On the other hand, if you have had relatively little to drink and have “paced” yourself during the evening while eating, you probably SHOULD give a breath sample and let your lawyer challenge the procedure and reliability of breath testing equipment in general. Keep in mind different lawyers will have varying opinions. This one is only mine after carefully surveying North Carolina DWI law and handling a full variety of DWI scenarios. Every case is unique and turns on its own particular facts. Call us now for answers and options.