What Happens if I Refuse a DWI Test in North Carolina?

Written by Jonathan Breeden

September 29, 2017

If you are pulled over under the suspicion of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in North Carolina, you can expect a relatively routine process. An officer is going to ask you a few questions to determine if there are any initial signs of inebriation. If the officer thinks you may have been drinking, they may ask you to step out of the car and perform one or more field sobriety tests (FSTs), which you have the right to refuse. The officer may also ask you to complete a roadside breath test. You can also refuse this.

No matter how polite you are or careful to not give any evidence to the police, you can still be arrested for a DWI. When this happens, you will be asked to submit to a chemical test. You can continue to refuse to submit to any tests, but because of the state’s implied consent law, there could be harsh civil consequences.

To learn more about what could happen if you refuse to take FSTs or chemical tests, contact a DWI lawyer at Breeden Law Office today by calling (919) 661-4970.

The Difference Between FSTs and Chemical Tests

There are three FSTs that have been standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA):

  • The one-leg stand test
  • The walk-and-turn test
  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus test

Chemical tests are used to determine if you had drugs or alcohol in your system over the legal limitof .08 percent. For commercial drivers, this limit is .04 percent, and for individuals 20 years old and younger it is .01 percent. These chemical tests include blood, breath, or urine tests that can all be used to calculate your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). A blood test will result in the most accurate BAC, while breath and urine tests give the police an estimate of your BAC.

North Carolina’s Implied Consent Law

G.S. §20-16.2 states that as a person who drives a vehicle on the state’s roads or in other public areas, you give consent to a chemical analysis if you are charged with a relevant, implied-consent offense. This includes impaired driving and an alcohol-related offense such as DWI. This means any time you drive in North Carolina, you have already agreed to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test to determine the presence and amount of alcohol or drugs in your system.

Procedures Surrounding Implied Consent

In order for you to be found to have refused to submit to a BAC test, the arresting officer must have followed procedures outlined in North Carolina law. According to G.S. §20-16.2(a)(1)-(6), the officer must inform you orally and in writing that:

  • You have the option to refuse to take any BAC test, however if you do, your license will be revoked for at least one year and the police may compel testing through obtaining a warrant.
  • Your refusal to submit to a test, as well as any test results, can be used as evidence in court.
  • If you refuse any test or a test result shows you are over the legal limit, your driving privileges will be immediately revoked for at least 30 days.
  • You have 30 minutes to seek the advice of an attorney and have a witness arrive to observe any test.
  • After you are released, you may seek an independent BAC test.

If the officer did not tell you these factors or provide you written notice of them, then your refusal may not count as a violation of North Carolina’s implied consent law. Your DWI defense lawyer can use this information to have this charge dropped or to defend against an administrative driver’s license suspension.

What Happens if You Refuse a Chemical Test?

If you refuse to submit to a chemical test, there could be both civil and criminal consequences. Upon refusing to take a BAC test in relation to a valid arrest for an implied-consent offense, your driver’s license will be automatically revoked for a period of time. This is an administrative punishment, and to attempt to have it reversed, you must ask for an administrative hearing immediately. This is why it is essential to call a lawyer as soon as possible after a DWI arrest. You may need to deal with the civil consequences of a DWI offense before handling the criminal charges.

In addition to the administrative license revocation, your refusal can be used against you in court. Prosecutors can submit your refusal to take a blood, breath, or urine test to the judge or jury and claimit was because you were intoxicated.

There Are Advantages and Disadvantages to Refusing DWI Tests

It is clear that if you refuse a FST or breath, blood, or urine test after being arrested for a DWI, there are disadvantages. You could be arrested, lose your driver’s license, and have prosecutors use your refusal against you in court. However, there are also advantages. By refusing to submit to a FST or BAC test, you give prosecutors less evidence against you. Even if you are still charged with a DWI, there is less evidence prosecutors can use to prove you violated the law beyond a reasonable doubt. Your attorneys can use this lack of evidence in your favor.

Contact Our DWI/DUI Attorney Today

If you were charged with a DWI, contract an experienced and trusted criminal defense attorney at Breeden Law Office as soon as possible. No matter what happened at the traffic stop, attorney Jonathan Breeden will thoroughly investigate the charges and build you the strongest defense under the law.

Contact Breeden Law Office online, or call (919) 661-4970 to schedule your initial consultation.


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