Officer Giving a Drunk Driver a HGN Test Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious criminal offense that is aggressively prosecuted in North Carolina. If you are convicted, you face harsh penalties and the long-term consequences of having a permanent criminal record. You need to understand the types of evidence the prosecutor could use against you so that you can mount a strong defense and make an informed decision on whether to enter into a plea agreement or fight your case at a jury trial.

What Is DWI in North Carolina?

Like other states, it is illegal to drive while intoxicated in North Carolina. You could be charged with DWI for the following:

  • You were driving while under the influence of an impairing substance.
  • You were driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher.
  • You were driving with any amount of a controlled substance, such as marijuana or cocaine, in your system.
  • If you are a commercial driver, you were driving with a BAC of 0.04 percent or higher.
  • If you are under 18 years old, you were driving with any amount of alcohol in your system.

If convicted of DWI, your sentence will be determined using a number of aggravating and mitigating factors. Depending on which factors apply to your case, you could face a jail sentence of a few days to up to 36 months and fines that can be as much as $10,000—even for a first offense.

Evidence That Could Be Used Against You

The prosecutor must prove their case against you beyond a reasonable doubt—which is a high standard that they cannot always meet. Here are the types of evidence they could use to try to convict you.

Physical Evidence

If the police find physical evidence of intoxication when they pull you over, they may be able to use it against you. Open containers of alcohol, drugs, and weapons are some types of physical evidence that may be collected and used in your case.

Your Driving Behavior and Appearance

The police officer and other witnesses, if there are any, could testify about how your driving suggested that you were intoxicated. Driving behaviors that are associated with drunk driving include:

  • Speeding
  • Weaving between lanes
  • Running red lights
  • Driving on the shoulder

The officer who stopped you could also testify about how their observations, such as bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and the odor of alcohol, led them to believe you were intoxicated.

Field Sobriety Test Results

The three standardized field sobriety tests that law enforcement use in Charlotte are the horizonal gaze nystagmus (HGN), one leg stand (OLS), and walk and turn (WAT). If the officer asked you to perform these tests and you agreed, they could be used against you.

Your Chemical Test Results

When you are arrested for DWI, you are required to submit to chemical testing to determine the amount of alcohol in your system. The results of a breath or blood test could be used to prove your BAC. This may be the strongest piece of evidence that the prosecutor has against you, but you may be able to challenge the test results.

Your Statements

Any incriminating statements you made to the police may be used against you. That is why it is so important to exercise your constitutional right to remain silent.

Video Footage

Law enforcement often video records what happens when they pull people over for DWI or a traffic violation. The police officer who arrested you could have recorded what occurred during your stop and arrest. The video recording may show your appearance, how well you performed the field sobriety tests, and the statements you made to the police.

An officer’s dashcam recording is often admissible in court. The prosecutor could use it to corroborate the police officer’s testimony.

Have You Been Arrested for a DWI in Charlotte, NC?

If you are facing DWI charges, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Charlotte office directly at 980.207.3355 to schedule your free consultation.


C. Todd Browning
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Charlotte Criminal Defense and DWI Lawyer