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

charlotte dui attorneysAfter 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. There are many things the police need to prove to convict you of DWI, so you will want the best legal defense on your side. Based on the thoroughness of the polce investigation, we may even be able to get your DWI charges dropped. The long-term consequences of a DWI can follow you around for the rest of your life, so don't risk handling this on your own.


Howard W. Long, II
Charlotte Criminal Defense and DWI Lawyer
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Our Approach To DWI Cases

Simply being charged with DWI in North Carolina often results in your driver’s license being revoked for a minimum of 30 days. However, we can typically get your driving privileges reinstated almost immediately. We do this by either, first, challenging this civil license revocation, or second, getting you a limited driving privilege.
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Whether you realize it or not, a considerable amount of evidence exists regarding your DWI charge, much of which is vital to an effective defense of your case. We will review your court file, subpoena necessary documents, videos, and notes, and file the appropriate pretrial motions in a timely manner.
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As former prosecutors, we are aware of all the potential defenses that may be available to you. We do not automatically assume you intend to plead guilty and face the harsh consequences associated with a DWI conviction. We pledge we will examine every possible defense and take your case to trial if it is in your best interest.
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