What You Need to Know About North Carolina’s Implied Consent Law

People driving on North Carolina's federal, state or local roadways have - whether they realize it or not - given consent to be subjected to breath or blood testing to check for the presence of alcohol if charged with certain types of offenses. That premise is the backbone of North Carolina's "implied consent" law.

Implied consent laws, in general, make it easier for police agencies to require drivers suspected of operating a vehicle while intoxicated to provide blood or breath samples that will be tested for the presence of alcohol. According to the language set forth in §20-16.2 of North Carolina's general statutes, the implied consent law will grant law enforcement officers the ability to take a sample for chemical testing so long as the officer reasonably believes that the person from whom the sample is sought did commit an "implied consent offense." This is not to say that the driver is without rights, but it does mean that a driver's refusal will come at a price.

What Is the Practical Effect of Implied Consent Laws?

From a day-to-day perspective, implied consent laws should serve as a deterrent, encouraging drivers to abstain from driving while intoxicated since they don't have the legal freedom to protest testing without facing consequences. Unfortunately, since many people don't actually know what implied consent laws are, or what they are designed to do, any noticeable deterrent effect is extremely unlikely. The laws do, however, encourage drivers who are suspected of drunk driving to freely give samples for alcohol testing.

The "encouragement" offered by implied consent laws is in the form of what some would say is legal coercion; drivers have the right to refuse to provide a sample, but doing so comes with consequences. In North Carolina, drivers who refuse to provide a breath or blood sample for chemical analysis will, under statute § 20-16.2(a)(1), face an automatic and mandatory drivers' license suspension of a year or more, refusal to provide a sample will be admissible in a criminal proceeding brought against the driver, and the police might still be able to forcibly take a sample against his or her will.

Refusing to submit to a breath or blood alcohol test comes at a steep price. However, so does being convicted of driving while intoxicated. It can be difficult for someone facing the prospect of DWI/DUI charges and the possibility of being forced to provide evidence that could be used against him to know what actions to take. If you or a loved one is dealing with an implied consent-related issue, seek the advice of a skilled North Carolina criminal defense attorney to learn more about protecting your rights.