5 Steps Of A DWI Arrest In North Carolina
Here In Chapel Hill, NC Matthew Charles Law has helped hundreds of people address DWI arrests. While it is an unfortunate situation that these events occur, Driving While Impaired (DWI) is a common and very serious offense that can result in 2 years of imprisonment. Given today’s political environment, if you are accused of DWI it is imperative that you find an attorney with the experience to test the State’s case and ensure an acceptable outcome is reached. No other crime in North Carolina is as scrutinized as Driving Under the Influence (DUI). This level of scrutiny makes it even more important that you have an attorney who knows how to defend a DWI charge. We are those attorneys. The most important aspect to addressing a DWI charge, is to understand the steps that go into an arrest which are listed below.
Step 1) The Stop
Almost always in North Carolina, this is where a DWI case begins. It is the job of an officer to stop any vehicle that may be endangering the safety of other on the road, especially in the case of a DWI. However, an officer must have a lawful reason to stop your vehicle.
Reasons for a stop include:
- Hazardous Driving
- Equipment Violations
- Failure To Maintain Lane Control
Once an officer has decided that you are in violation of a driving law they have the legal ability to stop your vehicle. This is where the process of determining if the driver may be driving impaired begins. From here, if the officer is suspicious of impairment, they may begin to ask you questions like “where are you coming from” or “Have you had anything to drink tonight?” It is important to note that you are not within your rights to lie to an officer of the law, but you do have the right to respectfully decline to answer their questions. If the officer has strong suspicion that you have been drinking, ie the smell of alcohol, slurring of words ect, they can and most likely will ask you to step out of the vehicle to gauge for possible impairment with a Portable Breathalyzer Test (PBT) or a series of other tests called the Standard Field Sobriety Test (SFST). Once again, you are not required to agree to these tests. If you do however decide to agree, during this test you will be asked to do 3 things:
- One-Leg Stand Test (stand on one leg and count)
- Walk Straight Line Test (walk heel-to-toe, then repeat backwards)
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (follow pen or light with eyes)
Unfortunately, if you have been deemed to fail any of theses tests, odds are you will be arrested and taken for further processing. It is important to contact a DWI attorney immediately if you find yourself in this situation. Matthew Charles Law is here to help.
Step 2) The Arrest
In order to arrest you, an officer must have “probable cause” or “articulable fact” that you are in violation of the law. Probable Cause is defined by the Supreme Court of North Carolina as, “a reasonable ground of suspicion supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves to warrant a cautious man in believing the accused to be guilty.” State v. Zuniga, 312 N.C. 251, 259, 322 S.E.2d 140, 145 (1984). This can be determined by failure of either a PBT, SFST or other factors. You will be read you Miranda rights and then, in most cases, you will be taken to a station for further testing. It is important to recognize, that if you get to this point, you need to contact a lawyer immediately. Our attorneys have substantial experience challenging the State’s case on grounds of lack of Probable Cause for arrest.
Step 3) The Chemical Test
Usually these tests are taken at a police station to determine an official Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level. At the station you will be required under North Carolina state law to take a Breathalyzer Machine (EC/IR II.) This is the only test you are required to take as a citizen under North Carolina implied consent law. If you refuse to perform the test, your license may be suspended for a year depending on whether or not the refusal was willful.
Prior to subjecting you to the EC/IR II, however, the police are required to inform you that you have a right to speak to a lawyer and/or call a witness to observe the test. There is thirty-minute window for an attorney or witness to arrive and there is no downside to taking advantage of your thirty-minute window. If you are accused of DWI, it is important that you find an attorney who understands the strengths and weaknesses of the machines the State will use to gather evidence against you.
Step 4) The DWI Charge
If it has been determined by the officer, beyond a reasonable doubt that you are in violation of the law, you will be charged with a DWI offense in NC. Once charged, you will presented to a magistrate to determine if bond will be issued. You can however, be released on the promise that you will return to court on the issued date as well as be required to post bond before you are released. If you find yourself in this part of the process, it is imperative you have an attorney on your side to best represent your position against the state.
Step 5) That’s Up To You
This is the most important step of the process. Here you have a choice on how you handle your DWI charge. It is in your best interest to seek out an attorney who has local experience when dealing with these cases. Many times in DWI cases licenses are revoked, posing a huge financial and social burden on the accused party. Depending on the stage of a Driving While Impaired case and the facts surrounding it, Matthew Charles Law may be able to help you obtain a limited driving privilege.
The different types of Limited Driving Privileges are:
- Pre-Trial Limited Privilege
- Post-Conviction Limited Privilege
- Refusal Limited Privilege
- Interlock Limited Privilege (required when BAC is .15 or greater)
As part of each DWI representation, our attorneys will consult with the client and help them to obtain any Limited Driving Privilege they may be eligible for. Over the years our attorneys have defended thousands of Driving While Impaired cases both in District and Superior Courts throughout the state. As such, we have the skill set and experience necessary to handle your DWI case. Visit our DWI page for more info or give the Matthew Charles Law a call today to discuss your case at (919) 619-3242.