What Happens After a DWI Arrest in NC?

If a police officer arrests you for driving while impaired (DWI) in North Carolina, you need to take the situation seriously. Here are a few suggestions about how to handle the next steps that you will face:

1. The officer will ask you questions.

After an officer arrests you for a suspected DWI, the officer will continue his or her investigation. You can expect the officer to ask you questions such as:

  • Where were you coming from? Where were you going?
  • Did you have anything to drink? How much did you drink?
  • Have you used any illegal drugs? Are you on any medication?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how impaired are you?

However, if you are in custody, the officer must first give you a “Miranda warning.” After the officer advises you of your Miranda rights, you can – and should – invoke your right to remain silent. As the officer should tell you, anything that you say can – and will – be used against you. The courts typically find that DWI suspects are not in custody when they make their statements, so you can’t count on a Miranda argument to save you in court. Your best approach is to ask to speak with an attorney and respectfully explain to the officer that you do not wish to answer any questions.

In short, DON’T answer any questions about drinking and/or drug use. Instead, tell the officer that you want to call a lawyer.

2. The officer will ask you to take a breath test.

Upon your arrest, the officer will take you to the police station or to a breath alcohol testing (BAT) mobile and ask you to give a breath sample. Before the officer administers this test, the officer must inform you in writing that:

  • Under North Carolina law, you give “implied consent” to the police to administer a chemical test, or a breath, blood or urine test. You have the right to refuse to the test. However, if you do refuse, you will lose your license for one year.
  • If you take the breath test, your license will be immediately revoked for 30 days if you blow a 0.08 (or a 0.04 if you are commercial driver or a 0.01 if you are under age 21). However, you can request a pretrial limited driving privilege after 10 days that will allow you to drive for things like getting to work, taking your kids to school and going to the grocery store.
  • You have the right to call an attorney and to have a witness present to watch you take the test. However, you can only delay the test for 30 minutes in order to contact a lawyer and/or get a witness there.

You should always exercise your right to call a lawyer. The lawyer can help you to decide whether to go through with the test. If you choose to do the breath test, you should do your best to get a witness such as a family member or friend. What the witness observes could play a key role in your defense. Also, the 30-minute wait for a witness may be long enough to get your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) below the legal limit.

Keep in mind: If you refuse to take the breath test, the police could still try to get a search warrant and force you to give a blood sample. It is also possible that an officer could claim that “exigent circumstances” exist which make it necessary to get a blood draw without a warrant.

3. You will need to get help from a lawyer.

If you are charged with driving while impaired, you will need a lawyer as you go through the next stages in your case. You can call our law firm, hire another firm or, if you cannot afford one, ask for a public defender or private counsel to be assigned to you. The worst thing you can do is to try to take on your DWI case by yourself. The stakes are far too high for you and future. To learn more about the important role that a DWI lawyer can play in your DWI defense, contact Kurtz & Blum today.