When it comes to DWI arrests in North Carolina, misinformation can lead to poor decisions and severe consequences. Many people think they understand the laws and the process, but common myths abound. Set the record straight in your mind with accurate information at your fingertips. You’ll be better equipped to navigate the complex legal landscape if you face a DWI arrest.
Myth 1: A DWI Arrest Means You’re Automatically Guilty
Contrary to popular belief, a DWI arrest doesn’t necessarily lead to a DWI conviction. Many factors come into play, such as the arresting officer’s handling of the situation, field sobriety tests, and blood alcohol concentration results.
A skilled DWI defense attorney can scrutinize these elements to present a strong case on your behalf.
Myth 2: Law Enforcement Officers Can’t Arrest You Without a Breathalyzer Test
Many think police officers need breathalyzer results to make a DWI arrest. In truth, law enforcement officers can arrest you based on other evidence of impaired driving, such as slurred speech, erratic driving, or failing field sobriety tests.
The breathalyzer is just one tool among many for establishing probable cause.
Myth 3: Your Driver’s License Will Be Suspended Immediately After a DWI Arrest
While a DWI arrest can lead to administrative license revocation, this isn’t automatic.
You can request an administrative license revocation hearing to defend your driving privileges. You’ll need solid legal representation to navigate this process effectively.
Myth 4: Refusing a Blood Test Protects You from a DWI Charge
Some think refusing a blood test will save them from a DWI charge. However, North Carolina has implied consent laws that make it an offense to refuse to give a blood sample or breath test.
However, you can ask a witness to come and observe any testing at the police station. The witness legally has 30 minutes to arrive.
Roadside or field sobriety tests are not legally required in NC. However, refusing roadside testing can result in an arrest.
The real danger lies in refusing to take tests at the police station after an arrest. This can result in immediate license suspension and be used as evidence of your guilt in court.
Myth 5: All Field Sobriety Tests Are the Same and Equally Reliable
Not all field sobriety tests are standardized or equally accurate. Common roadside or field tests include the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the one-leg stand test, and the walk-and-turn test.
A DWI defense attorney can question the reliability and administration of these tests during your case.
Furthermore, North Carolina does not require you to take any type of field sobriety test. You can ask for a breathalyzer or blood tests at the police station instead. You may call a witness to observe your testing. Your witness legally has 30 minutes to arrive. This is your right, so use it if you are concerned about the outcome of drunk driving roadside tests.
Myth 6: A DWI and a DUI are the Same Offense in North Carolina
In some states, the terms DWI (Driving While Impaired) and DUI (Driving Under the Influence) are interchangeable.
However, in North Carolina, the law focuses on DWI charges. This term covers not just alcohol consumption but also the use of other drugs that impair your ability to drive.
A DUI conviction from another state could still have implications for your driver’s license in NC, but you face DWI charges within this state.
Myth 7: Consuming Food Is Irrelevant to My Blood Alcohol Concentration
Some people believe that eating is unrelated to your blood alcohol levels. However, this is simply not true. Your blood alcohol content (BAC) depends on:
- How much alcohol you drank, and the strength of each drink
- Over what period of time you drank the alcoholic beverage
- Size of your body and your metabolism
- Emotional state
- Physical health
- Food intake
The body can only metabolize about one drink per hour, so drinking more than that results in higher levels of intoxication.
Frequently consuming alcohol can lead to tolerance. This is when a person needs to drink more to feel the same effects. However, having a high tolerance does not affect blood alcohol content. (1)
Myth 8: You Can Avoid DWI Arrests by Staying in the Car but Not Driving
Being in the driver’s seat of a motor vehicle while impaired can still result in a DWI charge, even if you haven’t moved an inch.
Law enforcement officers can arrest you based on the probability that you intend to operate the vehicle while impaired.
Myth 9: You Can Refuse All Field Sobriety Tests Without Consequences
North Carolina’s implied consent law requires you to submit to a breathalyzer or chemical tests at the police station when law enforcement suspects impaired driving.
While you can refuse field testing, refusing testing at the station can lead to immediate administrative license revocation and be used against you in court.
Myth 10: A First Offense DWI Isn’t a Big Deal
Many think a first-time DWI arrest will result in a mere slap on the wrist. This couldn’t be further from the truth. A first offense can lead to jail time, significant court costs, and loss of driving privileges.
Moreover, it sets a precedent that could result in harsher penalties for subsequent DWI arrests.
Myth 11: You Can Cheat Field Sobriety Tests
Some people think they can outsmart the field sobriety tests administered by law enforcement officers. Tricks like placing a penny in the mouth or attempting to balance effortlessly during the one-leg stand test are often discussed but seldom work.
These standardized field sobriety tests gauge your ability to operate a motor vehicle. Officers use roadside tests to establish probable cause for a DWI arrest.
Consulting a DWI attorney about whether you should take roadside testing always makes sense. Sometimes, an arrest and testing with a witness present at the police station is a better idea.
Myth 12: You Only Lose Your Driver’s License If Convicted
Many people assume that license suspension only occurs after a DWI conviction.
However, refusing to take a blood test or breath sample can lead to an administrative license revocation, even before you get to court. This means you could lose your driving privileges even before a criminal trial.
Myth 13: The Arresting Officer Needs to See You Driving to Arrest You
You don’t necessarily need to be caught driving to be charged with a DWI.
Suppose a law enforcement officer finds you in the driver’s seat of a parked motor vehicle and has probable cause to believe you’ve been consuming alcohol or using other intoxicating drugs. In that case, you can still face DWI charges.
Myth 14: Having a DWI Defense Attorney is Unnecessary
Some people assume that for a first offense, they can plead guilty and face minimal penalties.
However, DWI cases in North Carolina are complex, and criminal charges can have long-lasting effects, from court costs to ignition interlock devices. In addition, you receive a permanent “violent” criminal record in NC for a DWI. This conviction is not expungeable.
Legal representation is essential to navigate the complexities of the law for a solid and successful defense or reduction of charges.
Myth 15: You Can Ignore the Administrative License Revocation Hearing
People sometimes overlook the importance of the administrative license revocation hearing, thinking it’s separate from their DWI case. However, this hearing can be crucial in maintaining your driving privileges and offer your DWI lawyer valuable insights into the prosecution’s case against you.
Understanding these myths and their realities can help you make informed decisions if you ever encounter a situation involving DWI arrests or impaired driving laws in North Carolina.
Myth 16: You Can’t Get a DWI While Operating Non-Traditional Vehicles
Many believe DWI laws only apply to those operating standard motor vehicles like cars and trucks. This is a misconception. In North Carolina, you can also face DWI charges for operating a bicycle, pushing a lawnmower, riding a scooter, or even steering a boat under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
Law enforcement officers take impaired driving seriously, regardless of the vehicle involved. The critical factor is your ability to operate the vehicle safely.
If you’re found with a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit or show signs of impaired ability, you’re at risk of facing DWI charges. You also face losing driving privileges and having to attend an administrative license revocation hearing, just like you would if you were driving a car.
Don’t assume that being on a bicycle, boat, or golf cart offers some form of legal shield against DWI laws. The aim is to keep all pathways and waterways safe, and DWI laws are designed to achieve just that.
We Can Help
If you face DWI charges in North Carolina, don’t navigate the complex legal landscape alone. At Cape Fear Law Firm, our experienced DWI attorneys focus on helping individuals just like you.
Our skilled team of attorneys understands the nuances of DWI laws, field sobriety tests, blood alcohol concentration levels, and the administrative license revocation process. We guide you through every step of the way, from the moment of your arrest to court appearances, working diligently to protect your driving privileges and explore every avenue for your defense.
Trust us to provide you with the legal representation you deserve. Get in touch today and find out how we can help you through this uncertain and stressful situation.