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Field Sobriety Tests North Carolina (2023) – All You Need To Know

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Feb 15, 2023
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Being pulled over by a police officer can be a stressful or even frightening experience, especially if you know you did not do anything wrong. If you are pulled over for suspected driving while intoxicated (DWI), it can feel as though the police officer is searching for justification to arrest you, and in many situations, this is exactly the case. A police officer may only conduct a DWI arrest after establishing probable cause, and there are several methods they may employ in their efforts to accomplish this.

One tactic used by police frequently is requesting a driver perform a field sobriety test. This test involves specific physical movements that, as claimed, are more difficult or impossible when the test subject is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These tests involve balance, coordination, and precise movement. Unfortunately, however, they are often difficult for even sober people to complete. Therefore, if you are pulled over and asked to perform a field sobriety test, it’s important to know your rights.

Understanding Implied Consent

All drivers in the state give their implied consent to chemical testing for DWI. If a police officer believes a driver is under the influence of alcohol behind the wheel, the officer can ask the driver to submit to a breathalyzer test to confirm their sobriety. This test involves blowing through a plastic tube into a device that measures blood-alcohol concentration (BAC). Any BAC over .08% is a DWI.

Many drivers mistakenly believe that the implied consent law applies to all DWI testing during a traffic stop, including field sobriety tests. This is not true, and while you may not refuse a chemical test without penalty, you have the right to refuse a field sobriety test, especially if you believe you cannot complete the test to the officer’s satisfaction, regardless of your level of intoxication.

If you refuse a breathalyzer test, your driver’s license is automatically suspended for one year, regardless of whether you were intoxicated. However, there is no penalty for refusing a field sobriety test but bear in mind that if you do, the officer is likely to ask you to submit to a breathalyzer test instead.

Defending Against DWI

If you are arrested for DWI, regardless of whether you are intoxicated, you need defense representation you can trust to guide you through your proceedings. An experienced criminal defense attorney can thoroughly review the details of your arrest, highlight problems with arresting officers’ handling of your traffic stop, and potentially show that your field sobriety test results are not strong enough proof to justify a conviction for DWI.

Christina Rivenbark & Associates will assist you in uncovering any mitigating factors that could work in your favor. For example, if the police unfairly handled your field sobriety test or used your failure to complete the test to their satisfaction as their sole justification for your arrest, this could be enough to have your case dismissed. Reliable criminal defense representation is invaluable in any criminal case, and our team will help you form the strongest defense possible against the charges your case entails.

FAQs About North Carolina Field Sobriety Tests

Are Field Sobriety Tests Mandatory?

No, a driver has the right to refuse a field sobriety test. A police officer may be looking for the driver to fail such a test to establish probable cause for a DWI arrest. By complying and attempting the test, even if you are sober, you could be giving the officer the justification they need to arrest you.

Are Breathalyzer Tests Mandatory in North Carolina?

Yes, if a police officer pulls you over for suspected DWI and requests you to perform a breathalyzer test, the implied consent law does not allow you to refuse. If you refuse, your driver’s license is automatically suspended for one year. Additionally, if you are later convicted of DWI, you face much harsher penalties. Of course, if you were not drinking, you might find it unfair to submit to a breathalyzer, but there is no reason to subject yourself to an automatic one-year license suspension for no reason.

Should I Hire a Defense Attorney if I’m Wrongfully Arrested for DWI?

If you fail a field sobriety test while sober and are arrested for DWI even though you are not intoxicated, do not assume that you can explain your way out of the situation on your own. Additionally, do not assume that hiring defense representation makes you look guilty. You should always have counsel you can trust if you are accused of any crime in the state, and your defense attorney will help you build the strongest defense possible to avoid an unjust conviction.

What Are Your Rights During an Arrest for DWI?

If you are arrested for DWI, regardless of whether you committed the offense or not, you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Take full advantage of these rights, and do not say anything to the police once they place you under arrest. It’s very likely that anything you say will be misconstrued and used against you. Once you complete the booking process, you will be able to contact a defense attorney to represent you.

What Are the Penalties for DWI Conviction in North Carolina?

The penalties for a DWI conviction usually include fines and court fees, jail time, mandatory substance abuse treatment, and a loss of your driving privileges. The severity of these penalties depends on the details of your case. If any aggravating factors are present, they work against you and increase the severity of your sentence. On the other hand, if there are mitigating factors in your case, these can alleviate your penalties.

The attorneys at Christina Rivenbark & Associates have extensive professional experience in DWI defense, and we can help you fight an unjust DWI charge. If you were arrested for DWI after failing a field sobriety test or you did commit a DWI offense and need defense counsel, we are ready to assist you. Contact us today and schedule a case evaluation with our team to learn more about the legal services we offer.

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