Driving while impaired (DWI) is a serious crime that can result in severe consequences, including fines, imprisonment, and a criminal record. In many states, law enforcement officers are authorized to request a breathalyzer test if they suspect that a driver is under the influence of alcohol, but what happens if you refuse to take a breath test?
Our experienced DWI defense attorneys at the Coolidge Law Firm in Raleigh are here to help individuals charged with a DUI or DWI understand the consequences of refusing a breathalyzer test. From providing insight and guidance on how to defend yourself against a DWI charge to understanding your rights when it comes to roadside breathalyzer tests, we are here with everything you need to know. Whether you have been arrested for a first-time offense or have a prior history of DWIs, it is important to understand the legal implications of refusing a breathalyzer test and the steps you can take to build a strong defense.
What is a Breathalyzer Test?
A breathalyzer test is a device that measures the amount of alcohol in a person’s breath. It provides an indirect measurement of the amount of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream, which is used to determine blood alcohol concentration (BAC). A person’s BAC is used to determine if they are legally impaired, as defined by the state’s laws.
Breathalyzer tests are commonly used when a police officer pulls someone over on suspicion of intoxication or at the site of a traffic stop to detect drunk driving. If an officer suspects that a driver is under the influence of alcohol, they may request a breathalyzer test to determine the driver’s BAC. If the driver’s BAC is above the legal limit of 0.08%, they can be arrested and charged with a DWI or DUI.
What Are Implied Consent Laws for Breathalyzer Tests?
Implied consent laws are state laws that require drivers to submit to a breathalyzer test if requested by an arresting officer. These laws state that by operating a motor vehicle on the state’s roads, drivers have given their consent to submit to a breathalyzer test if suspected of impaired driving.
It is important to understand that implied consent laws in North Carolina do not require drivers to take a breathalyzer test, but rather impose consequences when a person refuses a breath sample. If a driver is facing a DWI charge, they have the right to retain a qualified DWI defense lawyer to defend their rights and build a strong defense against the charges.
Understanding Field Sobriety Tests and DWI Charges
Field sobriety tests are a series of physical and cognitive tests that law enforcement officers use to determine if a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These tests are designed to measure a driver’s ability to perform simple tasks, such as walking in a straight line or following a moving object with their eyes.
Field sobriety tests are commonly used by law enforcement officers in conjunction with breathalyzer tests to determine if a driver is impaired and should be charged with a DWI offense. If a driver fails a field sobriety test, or if the officer has other reasonable suspicion or evidence of impairment, such as the smell of alcohol on the driver’s breath, the officer may place the driver under arrest and charge them with a DWI.
It is important to understand that field sobriety tests are not foolproof and can sometimes produce false positive results. Factors such as fatigue, physical impairments, and nervousness can affect a driver’s performance on a field sobriety test, even if they are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Can you Refuse a Field Sobriety Test?
In North Carolina, drivers do not have the legal right to refuse a field sobriety test. Under North Carolina’s implied consent laws, drivers who operate a motor vehicle on the state’s roads have given their consent to submit to a field sobriety test if requested by a police officer. If a driver refuses to take a field sobriety test in North Carolina, they can be charged with a DWI and face consequences, even if they are not ultimately convicted of the DWI charge. These consequences can include automatic driver’s license suspension, fines, and possible jail time.
How Can a DWI Defense Lawyer Challenge the Results of a Field Sobriety Test?
A DWI defense lawyer can challenge the results of a field sobriety test by arguing that the test was not administered properly or that the results were unreliable due to a number of factors.
Some common ways to challenge the results of a field sobriety test include:
- Improper administration: The argument that the field sobriety test was not administered properly can be presented to the court, stating it was not in accordance with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) guidelines. For example, the test may have been administered on uneven or slippery ground, or the officer may have failed to provide clear instructions to the driver.
- Physical impairments: A DWI defense lawyer can argue that the driver’s performance on the field sobriety test was affected by physical impairments, such as a medical condition or injury, that had nothing to do with alcohol or drug impairment.
- Nervousness or anxiety: Skilled defense attorneys may use the strategy that the driver’s performance on the field sobriety test was affected by nervousness or anxiety, even if they were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Environmental factors: A defense lawyer for DWI charges can argue that environmental factors, such as poor lighting or weather conditions, affected the driver’s performance on the field sobriety test.
- Lack of scientific validity: Legal representatives for DWI cases can argue that the field sobriety test lacks scientific validity and has not been proven to accurately measure alcohol impairment.
Refusing a Breathalyzer Test: Consequences and Risks
Refusing a breathalyzer test is a serious matter that can have significant consequences and risks. The consequences of refusing a breathalyzer test can include getting your driver’s license suspended, fines, and even a jail sentence. The refusal to take a breathalyzer test can also be used as evidence against the driver in court. In addition to the legal consequences, refusing a breathalyzer test can also increase the risk of a DUI/DWI conviction. If a driver refuses a breathalyzer test, the prosecution may argue that the refusal is evidence of guilt and that the driver was aware that they were impaired.
What Happens if You Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?
Refusing a breathalyzer test can have a significant impact on your DWI case and increase the risk of a conviction. If you refuse a breathalyzer test, the prosecution may argue that your refusal is evidence of guilt and that you were aware that you were impaired. Additionally, refusing a breathalyzer test can also make it more difficult to negotiate a plea bargain or challenge the evidence against you in court. This can result in a longer and more complicated legal process and can increase the risk of a conviction along with other criminal penalties.
How Accurate are Breathalyzer Tests?
Breathalyzer tests are considered to be relatively accurate, but the accuracy of the test can be affected by a number of factors.
Some of the factors that can affect the accuracy of a breathalyzer test include:
- Calibration of the breathalyzer: The breathalyzer must be properly calibrated in order to provide accurate results. If the breathalyzer is not calibrated correctly, the results may be inaccurate.
- Interference from other substances: Certain substances, such as mouthwash or alcohol-based hand sanitizer, can interfere with the accuracy of a breathalyzer test.
- Operator error: The accuracy of a breathalyzer test can be affected if the operator does not follow proper procedures or if they do not properly maintain the breathalyzer.
- Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as acid reflux or diabetes, can affect the accuracy of a breathalyzer test.
- Radiofrequency interference: Some breathalyzers use radio frequency technology, and the accuracy of the test can be affected by radio frequency interference from other electronic devices.
Can Breathalyzer Test Results be Challenged in Court?
Breathalyzer test results can be challenged in court. Working with a reputable and knowledgeable defense attorney who specializes in DWI cases in NC, your legal representation can argue that the breathalyzer test was not administered properly, was not calibrated correctly, or that the results were affected by medical conditions or other factors.
DWI Defense Strategies for Breathalyzer Refusals
If you have been charged with a DWI after refusing a breathalyzer test, there are several defense strategies that a qualified DWI defense lawyer can use to help you fight the charges.
Some common defense strategies include:
- Challenging the validity of the implied consent law: A DWI defense lawyer can argue that the implied consent law is unconstitutional or that it was not properly applied in your case.
- Challenging the validity of the arrest: A defense attorney handling your DWI charges can argue that the arrest was not lawful and that the evidence against you should be excluded from court.
- Challenging the reliability of the breathalyzer test: Arguing that the breathalyzer test was not reliable or that it was not properly administered, and that the results should not be admitted as evidence in court is another useful strategy that may be implemented for your defense.
- Presenting alternative evidence: A DWI defense expert can present alternative evidence, such as eyewitness testimony, to challenge the prosecution’s evidence and to show that you were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of your arrest.
- Negotiating a plea bargain: In some cases, a DWI defense lawyer can negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution, which may result in a reduced charge or a more favorable sentence.
The best defense strategy will depend on the specific circumstances of your case. A qualified DWI defense lawyer can provide guidance and support throughout the legal process and help you fight the charges against you. By using a combination of defense strategies, a DWI defense attorney can help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case.
Choosing the Right DWI Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with a DWI after refusing a breathalyzer test, it is important to choose the right DWI defense lawyer to represent you.
Here are some factors to consider when choosing a DWI defense lawyer:
- Experience: It is important to choose a reputable lawyer who has experience handling DWI cases and who has a track record of success.
- Knowledge of the law: A DWI defense lawyer should have a thorough understanding of the laws and regulations related to DWI cases and the consequences of refusing a breathalyzer test.
- Availability: A DWI defense attorney should be available to answer your questions and provide support throughout the legal process.
- Reputation: It is important to choose a DWI defense team who has a good reputation in the legal community and that is respected by judges and prosecutors.
- Communication skills: A DWI defense lawyer should be able to communicate effectively with you and explain the legal process in a way that you can understand.
If You’re Facing DWI Charges or Refused a Breathalyzer Test, Contact A Qualified DWI Defense Lawyer At The Coolidge Firm Today
If you have been charged with a DWI or have refused a breathalyzer test, it is important to take immediate action to protect your rights and interests. The consequences of a DWI conviction can be severe, including fines, jail time, license suspension, and an increase in insurance rates.
At The Coolidge Law Firm, our DWI defense attorneys understand the serious nature of DWI charges and the impact they can have on your life. That’s why we are dedicated to providing our clients with the highest level of legal representation and support. Whether you are facing a first-time DWI charge or have refused a breathalyzer test, we are here to help.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling (919) 239-8448 or filling out our contact form below.