You probably know that when a person is pulled over in North Carolina, a police officer will often administer some sort of chemical test to determine whether that person was drinking and driving. You might not realize what your rights are when it comes to refusing to submit to such a test. Here, we discuss the consequences of refusing to submit to a chemical test – both after a traffic stop upon suspected DWI and after a DWI arrest, which have very different consequences.
Refusing to Submit to a Chemical Test After a Traffic Stop Upon Suspected DWI
If a police officer pulls you over for suspected DWI, he will probably first ask you to perform various field sobriety tests (such as saying the alphabet backward). After that, you will likely be asked to submit to a portable breath test. This is a chemical test administered at the location of the stop and is used to determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
Did you know that not only can you refuse to participate in any field sobriety tests, but you can also refuse to blow into a portable breathalyzer during a traffic stop? While you might still be arrested if you refuse to participate, there are no other consequences to refusing a breathalyzer test during a traffic stop. If you do submit to one, the evidence can only be used against you, so it is generally recommended that you never submit to a breathalyzer test at the site of a traffic stop.
Refusing to Submit to a Chemical Test After a DWI Arrest
The consequences of refusing to submit to a chemical test change once you have been arrested for a DWI. After a DWI arrest, an officer will take you to the station and ask you again to submit to a breath test. This time, the test will be the Intox EC/IR II, performed on a more sophisticated and accurate piece of equipment, the Intoxilyzer.
At this time, the officer will explain certain things, including that you have the right to refuse testing, but that if you do, it will result in the immediate revocation of your driver’s license for at least one year. Not only will you lose your driving privileges, but your refusal can be used against you as evidence in your criminal case.
So what should you do? Your refusal to take a chemical test after a DWI arrest has greater consequences than if you refuse to take one during a traffic stop, before an arrest. However, a refusal does limit the evidence the prosecution has against you (i.e., if you refuse a test, they will not be able to prove your BAC in court).
Because of the consequences of submitting to a chemical test, your best option is to contact an experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney before making your decision. Under North Carolina law, you have the right to contact an attorney or another witness to observe the testing (so long as waiting for them to arrive does not delay testing for more than thirty minutes). If you have already submitted to a breathalyzer, reach out to a criminal defense attorney today to discuss your rights.