Why You Should Refuse a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) if Stopped for DWI Suspicion in Charlotte

After being stopped for suspicion of drunk driving in Mecklenburg County, the officer may ask you to blow into a small, handheld device called an Alco-Sensor for a breath alcohol screening test. You should refuse to blow. 

This breath alcohol test is more commonly referred to as a preliminary breath test (PBT) because it happens before an actual arrest. Just like field sobriety tests, a PBT is another method used to help the officer develop probable cause to justify arresting you for DWI

Benefits of Refusing to Blow for a Preliminary Breath Test

Your refusal to take this test is only admissible to show probable cause that you committed drunk driving; it cannot be used as actual evidence of guilt. While this may not sound reassuring, by refusing the PBT you are strengthening your case, increasing opportunities for reduced charges, and leaving the officer without a critical piece of information to use against you.

Unlike the significant penalties for breathalyzer refusal after a DWI arrest, you won't face any repercussions for refusing the PBT. There are no driver’s license penalties or suspensions for refusing the PBT.

What Happens if I Submitted a Preliminary Breath Test?

If you submitted a PBT, in most situations the results of this test (i.e. your blood alcohol concentration or BAC) is not admissable; only the fact that your blow showed a positive or negative result on the breath alcohol screening test is admissible. For example, if you blow a 0.09, only the fact that your blow was positive for alcohol may be admitted in a probable cause hearing, not the fact that you blew a 0.09.

However, there are cases where the actual BAC measurement is admissible, such as prosecutions involving any of the following charges:

  • Driving after consuming alcohol or drugs under 21
  • Operating a school bus or child care vehicle after consuming alcohol
  • Operating a commercial vehicle after consuming alcohol 
  • Transporting an open container of an alcoholic beverage after consuming alcohol

Preliminary Breath Tests are Voluntary In Most Situations

PBTs are voluntary in North Carolina and you should refuse to blow. However, there are two situations under N.C.G.S. 20-16.3 that allow an officer to require a driver to submit to a breath alcohol screening test, including:

  • If the officer has reasonable grounds to believe the driver consumed alcohol and committed a moving traffic violation or was involved in an accident.
  • If the driver was lawfully stopped and the officer can point to specific and articulable facts that an implied consent offense occurred under N.C.G.S. 20-16.2.

Contact Our Charlotte DWI Defense & Breathalyzer Refusal Lawyers

If you have been arrested for DWI in Mecklenburg County, please contact Browing & Long, PLLC for a free consultation. We'll review your case, answer your questions, and make sure you have the information you need to protect your legal rights and determine your best options. 

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