Common Questions and Helpful Answers About NC Criminal and DWI Charges
It is natural to have many questions and concerns when charged with a crime in North Carolina. These charges can have serious consequences and long-lasting effects on those charged with their families, so they need reliable answers quickly. Here, Todd Browning and Howard Long share their answers to many of these tough questions. Find out their thoughts on DWI, traffic charges, and many other crimes.
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How do police decide who to stop for drunk driving in Charlotte?
Police officers in Mecklenburg County and North Carolina Highway Patrol are trained to look for numerous visual clues and driver behavior patterns when deciding whether to make an investigative stop of a drunk driving suspect. These visual clues, identified by a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study on impaired drivers, help officers determine if there is enough reasonable suspicion to justify pulling you over for DWI.
Outside of DUI checkpoints, police must have reasonable suspicion to legally stop you for drunk driving.
How Police Determine Reasonable Suspicion for a DWI Stop
The visual clues identified by the NHTSA fall into one of the following four categories:
- Problems Maintaining Proper Lane Position
- Speeding and Braking Problems
- Vigilance Problems
- Judgment Problems
Visual clues used to identify Problems Maintaining Proper Lane Position include:
- Weaving within a lane
- Weaving across lane lines
- Straddling a lane line
- Turning with a wide radius
- Almost striking a vehicle or other object
Visual clues used to identify Speeding and Braking Problems include:
- Stopping problems (too far, too short, too jerky)
- Accelerating or decelerating for no apparent reason
- Varying speed
- Slow speed (10+ mph under limit)
Visual clues used to identify Vigilance Problems include:
- Driving in opposing lanes or wrong way on one way
- Slow response to traffic signals
- Slow or failure to respond to officer’s signals
- Stopping in lane for no apparent reason
- Driving without headlights at night
- Failure to signal or signal inconsistent with action
Visual clues used to identify Judgment Problems include:
- Following too closely
- Improper or unsafe lane change
- Illegal or improper turn (too fast, jerky, sharp)
- Driving on other than designated roadway
- Stopping inappropriately in response to officer
- Inappropriate or unusual behavior (throwing up, arguing)
- Appearing to be impaired
If an officer observed you exhibiting any of these behaviors, he may be legally justified in stopping you for drunk driving, but not always. For example, if you make an illegal turn, you have likely violated the law and an officer is likely justified in stopping you on that fact alone. On the other hand, if you were weaving within your own lane only, an officer is not likely going to be justified in stopping you. When a DWI stop is based on the driver weaving within a lane, North Carolina law generally requires weaving within a lane plus some other fact in order for an officer to make a stop.
Find Out if Your Charlotte DWI Could be Dropped
If an officer did not have a legal justification for pulling you over, it may be possible to have your drunk driving charge dismissed based on that lack of reasonable suspicion. If you have been arrested for DWI in the Charlotte metro area, contact a Mecklenburg County DWI defense attorney at Browning & Long, PLLC for a free consultation to evaluate your case and assist in making this determination.
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Will my NC driver’s license be suspended if I refuse to blow or if I'm arrested for DWI?
It depends. There are numerous instances where your driver's license will be revoked by North Carolina’s Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for issues involving or related to driving under the influence. The most common scenarios where the DMV will revoke your driver’s license is when you (i) willfully refuse to submit to chemical analysis (i.e. breath or blood test), (ii) are charged with and/or arrested for driving under the influence, or (iii) are convicted of driving under the influence.
License Suspension for Willful Refusal to Breathalyzer or Chemical Testing
The laws of most states, including North Carolina, highly encourage a person suspected of driving under the influence to submit to chemical analysis (i.e. breath or blood test). Such laws do so through the consequences implemented when a person refuses such testing. Specifically, North Carolina General Statute (N.C.G.S.) 20-16.2(a)(1) informs a driving under the influence suspect that they may refuse any chemical test, but doing so will result in their driver’s license being revoked for a period of one year, and in some cases even longer.
This often means that if you refuse a chemical test, your driver's license will be revoked for one year. It's important to know the difference between the various breath-testing instruments and the consequences of refusing to blow in these devices. For example, an alcohol screening test, often referred to as a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT), is a breath test that is typically administered roadside before you are arrested. Refusing to submit to this test is not considered a willful refusal and will not revoke your driver's license for a period of one year. Thus, an alcohol screening test is not considered a chemical test for this purpose. However, a breath test using the Intoxilyzer 5000 or Intox EC/IR II, as well as a blood draw, are considered chemical tests. If you refuse to submit to these tests, your driver's license may be revoked for a period of one year. The Intoxilyzer 500 and Intox EC/IR II are generally administered after you have been arrested and left the scene.
License Suspension After Being Charged and/or Arrested for DWI
Under North Carolina General Statute (N.C.G.S.) 20-16.5(b), a person driving under the influence is subject to civil revocation of their driver’s license if the following applies:
- A law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person has committed an implied consent offense;
- The person is charged with an implied consent offense;
- The law enforcement officer and the chemical analyst comply with the procedures of G.S. 20-16.2 and G.S. 20-139.1 in requiring the person's submission to or procuring a chemical analysis; and
- The person
- Willfully refuses to submit to the chemical analysis;
- Has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more within a relevant time after the driving;
- Has an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more at any relevant time after the driving of a commercial motor vehicle; or
- Has any alcohol concentration at any relevant time after the driving and the person is under 21 years of age.
When your driver's license is revoked under N.C.G.S. 20-16.5(b), the minimum period of revocation is either 30 or 45 days depending on when your driver’s license was surrendered. If your driver’s license is surrendered within five (5) working days of the revocation (generally the day you were charged), the minimum revocation period is 30 days. If your driver’s license is not surrendered within five (5) working days of the revocation, the minimum revocation is generally 45 days from the date you surrender your driver’s license. Additionally, if you have a pending driving under the influence charge or other implied consent offense, your driver's license will be suspended indefinitely until all pending charges are resolved.
License Suspension After a Drunk Driving Conviction
A conviction for driving under the influence results in a mandatory revocation of a person’s driver’s license by the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) under North Carolina General Statute (N.C.G.S.) 20-17(a)(2). The length of such driver’s license revocation largely depends on whether you have any prior impaired driving convictions, and if so, the amount of time that has passed since those convictions.
Contact Our Charlotte DWI License Restoration Lawyers
If your driver’s license has been revoked due to one of the three common scenarios discussed under this question, it is important to remember that there are often circumstances where a you may be able to legally drive with a limited driving privilege. A DWI defense attorney at Browning & Long, PLLC can assist you in getting you back on the road as soon as possible.
What factors will the court consider when sentencing me for a DUI conviction in Mecklenburg County?
If you have been convicted of DUI in Mecklenburg County, the level of punishment of you will face is determined by the existence and balancing of what are called grossly aggravating factors, aggravating factors, or mitigating factors. Several of the following legal terms can be difficult to grasp, so it's always best to consult with a DWI defense attorney if you've been charged.
Grossly Aggravating Factors for DUI Sentencing
Grossly aggravating factors are seen as more serious than aggravating factors. The State must prove any grossly aggravating factor beyond a reasonable doubt. With that, the first step in determining the level of punishment you will face if convicted of DUI is to find out whether any grossly aggravating factors exist.
Four grossly aggravating factors:
- A prior conviction for a DUI related offense (See N.C.G.S. 20-4.01(24a) for the list of offenses) if:
- the prior conviction occurred within seven years of the current DUI offense date;
- the prior conviction occurred after the current DUI offense date, but before or at the same time as the sentencing in the current DUI case; or
- the prior conviction was in District Court, the conviction was appealed to Superior Court, the appeal was withdrawn or the case was remanded back to District Court, and a new sentencing hearing for the case has not been held.
- At the time of the current DUI offense, you drove while your driver’s license was revoked and the revocation was for a DUI revocation under N.C.G.S. 20-28.2(a).
- Your DUI caused serious injury to another person.
- At the time of the current DUI offense, you drove while:
- A child under the age of 18 years was in the vehicle
- A person with the mental development of a child under the age of 18 years was in the vehicle; or
- A person with a physical disability preventing unaided exit from the vehicle was in the vehicle.
Aggravating Factors for DUI Sentencing
As mentioned, aggravating factors are considered less serious than grossly aggravating factors. However, like grossly aggravating factors, the State must prove any aggravating factor beyond a reasonable doubt. When there are no grossly aggravating factors, or where grossly aggravating factors exist but the judge decides to consider any aggravating and mitigating factors as well, the next step in DUI sentencing is to determine whether any aggravating factors exist.
Nine aggravating factors:
- Gross impairment of your faculties while driving or an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more.
- Especially reckless or dangerous driving.
- Negligent driving that led to a reportable accident.
- Driving while your driver's license was revoked.
- Two or more prior convictions of certain motor vehicle offenses for which at least three points are assigned or which subject your driver’s license to revocation, if the convictions occurred within five years of the current offense, or one or more prior convictions of an offense involving DUI that occurred more than seven years before the current offense.
- Conviction under N.C.G.S. 20-141.5 of speeding to elude.
- Conviction under N.C.G.S. 20-141 of speeding by at least 30 miles per hour over the legal limit.
- Passing a stopped school bus in violation of N.C.G.S. 20-217.
- Any other factor that aggravates the seriousness of the offense.
Mitigating Factors for DUI Sentencing
After determining whether any aggravating factors exist, the next step in determining the appropriate level of punishment in DUI sentencing is to see if any mitigating factors exist. It is your burden to prove the existence of any mitigating factor by a preponderance of the evidence.
Eight mitigating factors:
- Slight impairment of your faculties resulting solely from alcohol, and an alcohol concentration that did not exceed 0.09 at any relevant time after the driving.
- Slight impairment of your faculties, resulting solely from alcohol, with no chemical analysis having been available to the defendant.
- Safe and lawful driving at the time of the offense, except for the DUI.
- A safe driving record.
- Impairment caused by a lawfully prescribed drug for an existing medical condition, and the amount of the drug taken was within the prescribed dosage.
- Voluntary submission to a substance abuse assessment and voluntary participation in the recommended treatment.
- Completion of a substance abuse assessment, compliance with its recommendations, and simultaneously maintaining 60 days of continuous abstinence from alcohol consumption, as proven by a continuous alcohol monitoring system.
- Any other factor that mitigates the seriousness of the offense.
DUI/DWI Sentencing Levels of Punishment
The determination of the appropriate DWI sentencing level of punishment involves balancing the presence of any grossly aggravating factors, aggravating factors, and mitigating factors mentioned above. The chart below summarizes the six sentencing levels and the corresponding punishments authorized by N.C.G.S. 20-179.
Aggravated Level One
Factors Fine Probationary Conditions Three or more grossly aggravating factors Up to $10,000 If suspended, must require 1-imprisonment of at least 120 days; AND 2-alcohol abstinence of at least 120 days to a maximum of the term of probation, as verified by CAM.
Imprisonment: 12 months minimum to 36 months maximum
Substance Abuse Assessment Required: Yes
Factors Fine Probationary Conditions 1. Grossly aggravating factor in N.C.G.S. 20-179(c)(4); OR
2. Two other grossly aggravating factors
Up to $4,000 If suspended, must require 1-imprisonment of at least 30 days; OR 2-imprisonment of at least 10 days and alcohol abstinence and CAM for at least 120 days
Imprisonment: 30 days minimum to 24 months maximum
Substance Abuse Assessment Required: Yes
Factors Fine Probationary Conditions One grossly aggravating factor Up to $2,000 If suspended, must require 1-imprisonment of at least 7 days; OR 2-alcohol abstinence and CAM for at least 90 days
Imprisonment: 7 days minimum to 12 months maximum
Substance Abuse Assessment Required: Yes
Factors Fine Probationary Conditions Aggravating factors substantially outweigh any mitigating factors Up to $1,000 If suspended, must require one or both of the following: 1-imprisonment for at least 72 hours 2-community service for a term of at least 72 hours
Imprisonment: 72 hours minimum to 6 months maximum
Substance Abuse Assessment Required: Yes
Factors Fine Probationary Conditions No aggravating or mitigating factors or aggravating factors are substantially counterbalanced by mitigating factors Up to $500 If suspended, must require one or both of the following: 1-imprisonment for 48 hours 2-community service for a term of 48 hours
Imprisonment: 48 hours minimum to 120 days maximum
Substance Abuse Assessment Required: Yes
Factors Fine Probationary Conditions Mitigating factors substantially outweigh aggravating factors Up to $200 If suspended, must require one or both of the following:
1-imprisonment for 24 hours
2-community service for a term of 24 hours
Imprisonment: 24 hours to 60 days maximum
Substance Abuse Assessment Required: Yes
Contact Our Charlotte DUI Lawyers if you have questions regarding a DWI arrest in Mecklenburg County by calling 980-224-4482.
- A prior conviction for a DUI related offense (See N.C.G.S. 20-4.01(24a) for the list of offenses) if:
Do I need an attorney if I have been charged with reckless driving in North Carolina?
You may consider trying to save money by attending your court hearing for your reckless driving charges on your own. However, retaining an experienced reckless driving attorney is in your best interests, and it may be more affordable to do so than you may think
Why You Need to Retain an Experienced Reckless Driving Attorney
You may not realize it, but you do have options for fighting a reckless driving charge even if you believe that you are guilty. Here are reasons why you want an experienced reckless driving attorney at your side:
- Misdemeanor offense. Reckless driving is not a traffic offense in North Carolina. It is a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. In addition, it will result in a permanent criminal record, points on your driving record, increased insurance costs, and a possible driver’s license suspension. You may be able to avoid some of these harsh consequences if you are represented by an attorney.
- Possible defenses. You may have defenses to the charges, such as speedometer calibration, GPS defense, lack of probable cause to stop you, and other violations of your constitutional rights, even if you are guilty. A skilled lawyer will be able to identify these defenses and use them to fight to get the charges dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.
- Court hearing. You are required to appear at a court hearing when charged with reckless driving in North Carolina. However, your attorney may be able to attend your hearing without you so that you do not have to miss work and lose wages.
- Plea bargain. An attorney will be able to enter into a more favorable plea agreement if that is in your best interest. He may be able to use facts in your case, such as a clean driving record or successful completion of a driver improvement course, to convince the prosecutor to reduce the charges to a less serious traffic offense.
At Browning & Long, PLLC, we are committed to aggressively fighting for the rights of our clients facing reckless driving charges. We have the added advantage of being former prosecutors, which gives us a greater understanding of the strategies that they employ in these cases. To learn more about your possible defenses and how we can assist you, start an online chat to schedule your free consultation today.
What defenses could I have after being arrested for shoplifting?
If you have been charged with shoplifting as a misdemeanor or felony in Charlotte, it would be a big mistake not to take the charges seriously. The punishment could be a jail or prison sentence, a large fine, and a permanent criminal record. Fortunately, even if you are guilty, you may have strong defenses that can result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.
Defenses That Can Help You Fight Shoplifting Charges
There are a number of defenses that can be present in any criminal case, such as the failure to give you your Miranda warnings or questioning you after you invoke your right to remain silent that could be applicable to your arrest. However, there are also defenses specific to the crimes of shoplifting and what must be proven to convict you of this offense in North Carolina. The prosecutor must prove these two elements:
- You intentionally concealed or possessed items for sale.
- You intended to permanently deprive the business of the item without paying for it.
You will need the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney to identify and raise the defenses that you have to shoplifting charges. Some effective ones that he may use to defend you include:
- Lack of intent. Because the crime of shoplifting requires an intent on your part to intentionally conceal and possess the goods and to deprive the store of them, your lawyer may challenge this aspect of the prosecutor’s case. He may present evidence that you did not intend to steal the items. Depending on the facts in your case, he may be able to show that you accidentally forgot to pay or that you tried to go back and return the merchandise as soon as you realized your mistake.
- Challenging witnesses. In some cases, there is video footage of the shoplifting. However, the prosecutor may rely on witness testimony as to how they saw the crime being committed. These witnesses can be store employees, other customers, or bystanders. A skilled attorney may be able to challenge their observations as unreliable or completely false.
Have you been arrested for shoplifting in Charlotte? Our skilled legal team can help you build a strong defense to the charges that you face and will aggressively fight for the best outcome possible. To learn more about your defenses and options, start an online chat to schedule your free consultation today.
Can my DWI charge be reduced to wet reckless in North Carolina?
A DWI conviction comes with harsh penalties, such as a jail sentence, fine of up to $10,000, driver’s license suspension, and a permanent criminal record. If you are charged with this offense, it is essential that you retain an experienced DWI attorney who can build a strong defense to charges you face. In some states, prosecutors will reduce a DWI to something called a Wet Reckless, however, in North Carolina this in not an option.
When Can Your Charges Be Pled Down to a Wet Reckless Offense?
In other states or jurisdictions, a wet reckless is a reckless driving offense involving alcohol. It is less serious than a DWI conviction but a more serious offense than a reckless driving conviction that does not involve alcohol. Prosecutors consider reducing a DWI to a wet reckless if this is your first offense of DWI and mitigating circumstances are present. These mitigating circumstances include:
- This is your first offense of DWI in North Carolina and any other state.
- Your impairment was due to alcohol and not any other substance, such as drugs.
- Your blood alcohol content (BAC) was 1.0 percent or lower.
- You have a safe driving record.
- You were polite and cooperative when arrested.
Why Is a Wet Reckless Not an Option in North Carolina?
In North Carolina, there is not such thing as a wet reckless. The Legislature did not create a crime called a wet reckless or any other lesser included offense to a DWI. Accordingly, North Carolina District Attorney's do not offer to reduce DWI charges. They either proceed to trial on the DWI charge or dismiss the case if there is insufficient evidence.
How an Experienced DWI Attorney Can Help.
Although a DWI charge will not be reduced in North Carolina, if you a charged with multiple crimes along with your DWI an experienced attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor to have those charges dismissed pursuant to a plea. Additionally, an experienced DWI attorney will thoroughly examine all aspects of your DWI investigation to determine if a mistake was made or a right was violated. If so, a skilled attorney will be able to advocate for a dismissal of your DWI charge or take it to trial.
Contact Us for Help Today
If you have been arrested for DWI in Charlotte, you need an experienced DWI attorney on your side if you hope to successfully fight a DWI charge. To learn how our skilled lawyers can assist you, start an online chat to schedule your free consultation today.
What are defenses to speeding to elude arrest charges?
In North Carolina, speeding to elude arrest is a serious offense that can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. Fortunately, you may have defenses to these charges even if you believe that you are guilty. However, with the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney, you may be able to build a strong defense so that the charges are dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.
What Is Speeding to Elude Arrest?
It is considered speeding to elude arrest to operate a motor vehicle on a highway, street, or public road while fleeing or attempting to flee a police officer who is performing his duties. It can be charged as a felony if at least two of a list of aggravating factors are present. Some of these factors include:
- Driving more than 15 mph over the speed limit
- Having a gross impairment of a person’s faculties due to intoxication caused by drug or alcohol use or having a blood alcohol content of 0.14 percent or higher
- Engaging in reckless driving under North Carolina laws
- Passing a school bus that is stopped
The penalties can include a jail or prison sentence, fines, and driver’s license suspension.
Common Defenses to Speeding to Elude Arrest
Fortunately, you may have defenses that can help you avoid the harsh penalties that you face. These defenses may result in the prosecutor not being able to meet the burden of proof for you to be found guilty. Some of these defenses include:
- Lack of knowledge. You must have known that the police officer was ordering you to pull over or was otherwise pursuing you in order to be convicted. If you can show that you had a lack of knowledge that you were being stopped, this could be a strong defense.
- Official capacity of an officer. You are only required to pull over if a police officer in his official capacity orders you to do so. If you did not know that the law enforcement official was acting in his official capacity, you may not have been obligated to stop.
- Self-defense. While a rare defense, you could claim you were acting in self-defense by fleeing if you were doing so to protect another person or yourself.
- No mitigating factors. If you are being charged with a felony, you may be able to get the charges reduced to a misdemeanor if you can show that no aggravating factors were present.
These are defenses specific to this crime. You may have other defenses that a skilled attorney can raise for you.
Being charged with speeding to elude arrest could result in your imprisonment and in you having a permanent criminal record. If you face these charges, we are here to thoroughly investigate the circumstances leading to your arrest, build a strong defense, and fight for the best possible outcome. To learn more about how we can help, call our office or start an online chat to schedule your free consultation.
Can the police search my car after pulling me over for driving while impaired in North Carolina?
Under the United States and North Carolina constitutions, you are protected against unreasonable searches and seizures. In general, this means that the police must obtain a search warrant before searching your vehicle. However, there are exceptions to this rule when a police officer stops you for driving while impaired (DWI) in North Carolina.
When Can the Police Search Your Vehicle Without a Search Warrant When Stopping You for DWI?
There are a number of exceptions to the rule against unreasonable searches and seizures that allow the police to search a vehicle without a warrant when stopping someone for DWI. These include the following:
- Probable cause. If the police have probable cause to believe that you are participating in criminal activity or that there is evidence of a crime in your vehicle, they can search your vehicle without a warrant. Examples of probable cause include seeing something in plain view, such as a gun or drugs, smelling marijuana or alcohol in your vehicle, or observing your bloodshot eyes or an odor of alcohol.
- Searches incident to your arrest. The police may be allowed to search your vehicle incident to your arrest to look for guns or other evidence relating to your arrest.
- Consent. If you consent to the search of your vehicle, the police would be permitted to do so. You should not consent to the search of your vehicle as you would be waiving your right to challenge the search if evidence is found that can be used against you. Your refusal to permit a search without a search warrant cannot be used against you later in court.
What Should You Do If You’re Pulled Over?
If the police stop you, remain calm and polite. You should stop your vehicle, roll down the window, and put your hands on your steering wheel where they are in plain view. You should also say as little as possible while answering the officer’s basic questions.
Have you been arrested for DWI in Mecklenburg County? Our experienced DWI defense attorneys are here to answer your questions and help you build a strong defense to the charges that you face. Fill out our online form or call our Charlotte office to schedule your free initial consultation.
What evidence can help in my reckless driving case in North Carolina?
If you have been charged with reckless driving in North Carolina, you must understand that you did not receive a traffic citation. You have been charged with a misdemeanor criminal offense with a possible sentence of time in jail, a fine, and suspension of your driver’s license. In addition, you would have a permanent criminal record. To build a strong defense and attack the prosecutor’s case against you, you will need evidence that supports your defenses.
Evidence That May Help You Fight the Reckless Driving Charges You Face
Even if you believe that you were guilty, you may have defenses to the reckless driving charges you face that can result in the charges being dismissed or being reduced to a much less serious offense. Some of the evidence that you may need includes:
- Speedometer calibration. Many reckless driving charges in North Carolina are based on driving over 20 miles per hour over the speed limit or over 80 miles per hour. A speedometer calibration can help you prove that you were not driving as fast as the police officer claims.
- GPS evidence. If you were charged with only traveling a little over 20 miles per hour over the speed limit or over 80 miles per hour, obtaining GPS location data along with a speedometer calibration can be effective to show that you were traveling at a slower speed. At a minimum, this may enable you to get the charges against you reduced to a less serious offense.
- Evidence of improper signs. When the speed limit signs near where you were charged with reckless driving were missing, vandalized, or hidden, this could be a defense to a reckless driving charge, especially if you were driving in an unfamiliar area. Photographs of the signs and the area in general can help you prove that you had no way of knowing the speed limit.
- Medical records. If you were speeding due to a medical emergency, such as experiencing a stroke or heart attack, you would want to obtain medical records substantiating a passenger’s or your health condition that required you to speed.
- Witness testimony. Witness testimony can be valuable to substantiate your defenses, such as that you were not the driver, you were not racing if this is the basis of your charge, or you were speeding due to a medical emergency.
- Evidence of safety commitment. Your sentence may be less harsh if you can show a commitment to safe driving. Evidence of this can include showing a clean driving record prior to these charges or completion of a driver improvement course.
Contact Our Charlotte Reckless Driving Attorneys Today
You need the assistance of an experienced reckless driving attorney in Charlotte to help you identify the defenses that you have and collect the evidence that you will need to aggressively fight the reckless driving charges that you face. Start an online chat today to schedule your free initial consultation to discuss your charges and the strong defenses you may have.
How can I challenge my blood test results in my DWI case?
In North Carolina, a conviction for driving while impaired (DWI) comes with very harsh penalties, such as large fines, a jail sentence, and suspension of your driver’s license. In addition, DWI is a misdemeanor offense in North Carolina and a conviction would result in a permanent criminal record. Fortunately, there are defenses to these charges that you could have even if you are guilty of driving when intoxicated that may result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. One powerful defense may be to challenge the results of your blood test.
Blood Tests in North Carolina DWI Criminal Cases
In North Carolina, police officers are permitted to obtain the amount of alcohol on your breath or blood as evidence to be used against you in a DWI case. The amount of alcohol on your breath is tested through the use of a breath testing machine, and the amount in your blood is tested through a blood test. If you do not consent to this testing, the police would need to obtain a warrant to conduct the test, which they would often obtain. However, under North Carolina’s implied consent laws, you imply consent to this testing and would face harsh penalties for refusing the test, such as automatic revocation of your driver’s license and your refusal being used as evidence in your DWI case.
Common Challenges to Blood Test Results in DWI Cases in NC
A blood test is conducted by drawing your blood and testing it, and it tends to be the most reliable testing procedure. However, this does not mean that the results are always right. If you are successful in challenging the result, the prosecutor may not be able to use the most important piece of evidence against you, and the charges against you may be dismissed. Questions regarding the reliability of the tests may also help to obtain a more favorable plea agreement where the charges are reduced to a much less serious offense.
There are a number of defenses to blood test results, and which one is applicable in your case will depend on your facts. Your experienced DWI attorney will be able to identify the best defenses in your case. Here are some defenses that may apply to your case:
- Lack of qualifications. The person administering the test must be qualified to do so. Your attorney can examine the training and experience of the person who administered your test to see if this is a basis for a defense. Even if the person was qualified, if there are other questions of his competency, such as cases of his falsifying records, this could lead to challenging the use of the blood test against you.
- Chain of custody. In DWI cases, the police are required to follow specific guidelines in handling the evidence—including the blood drawn from you and your test results. To ensure that they were not tampered with, the police must account for them at all times or the chain of custody may be broken. Mislabeling the test tube or misplacing it for a period of time are two examples of when the chain of custody might be broken. If the chain of custody is broken in your case, the blood test result could be excluded from evidence in your criminal case.
- Calibration. Blood testing machines often need to be calibrated, like breathalyzers, to ensure that they work properly. In some cases, the calibration of the equipment used in a blood test may not be properly done and could lead to an error in the results. In this situation, the test results could be excluded or the accuracy questioned.
- Storage. Blood samples must be properly stored or it can result in elevated error rates. The yeast, sugar, and bacteria in the blood can ferment if not stored correctly—which can lead to inaccurate test results. If your blood sample was improperly stored, the results may be inadmissible.
Let Us Help Raise All Your Defenses in Your DWI Case
Were you charged with DWI? An experienced DWI defense attorney can help you aggressively fight the charges you face. We have the added benefit of being former prosecutors so we understand how they approach these cases. To learn more about how we can help you build a strong defense, call our office today to schedule a free consultation.