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What happens during a North Carolina DWI stop?

If you are a North Carolina driver, chances are that you have seen at least one other driver attempting a field sobriety test. What happens if you get pulled over on suspicion of DWI, however? Would you know how to advocate for your own rights? Today, we discuss what to expect during a drunk driving sobriety test and explain the implications of a refusal to take a breath test at the scene.

When a motorist is suspected of drunk driving - usually because of erratic driving patterns or weaving within the lane - a police officer will conduct a standard type of traffic stop. North Carolina police officers will evaluate the driver to determine whether he or she shows obvious signs of intoxication. Those can include bloodshot eyes, slurred words, poor motor skills or even a smell of alcohol and confusion. Although some motorists attempt to smother the smell of alcohol with a cigarette or cologne, authorities say this tactic is unlikely to work.

Next, officers ask the driver to get out of the vehicle to perform standard field sobriety tests. Although the movies make us believe that you might be required to say the alphabet in reverse, don't bother practicing; the mandated tests are generally restricted to a gaze test, along with an evaluation for standing on one leg and walking in a line.

Drivers in North Carolina have the right to refuse sobriety testing and blood-alcohol analysis. At that point, an officer evaluates the evidence to determine whether an arrest is warranted. Refusal to take a breath or blood-alcohol test can result in license suspension, though it can also confound the ability of a prosecutor to successfully pursue a drunk driving conviction. Those arrested for drunk driving may benefit from consulting a qualified criminal defense attorney before submitting to any tests, as the results of those evaluations can have significant impacts on the outcome of their criminal cases.

Source: Aiken Standard, "'Walk the line': How police determine if you're DUI" Teddy Kulmala, Jan. 06, 2014

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