Driving While Intoxicated in NC and Refusing to Blow

   Many people question whether or not they should refuse to blow in the breathalyzer when stopped, and under suspicion for driving while impaired. If you do refuse, one thing is certain, you will have your license suspended by NC DMV for refusal to blow. This suspension is separate from your DWI conviction suspension and will run as a separate 1 year suspension. Most people I talk with aren't aware that refusing the "field test" breathalyzer, which is performed on the street, doesn't qualify as a refusal. It's the breathalyzer test "downtown" that triggers the official refusal if at all. So generally you will have been arrested and taken in before the formal refusal occurs. 

   There are a number of scenarios where failure to blow will cause  a DMV license suspension, and you will still eat the DWI charge. That is, if the state can show enough evidence of impairment. Under certain circumstances, you may be held down and have your blood drawn, which may or may not make things worse. Other indications of impairment can be drawn from your behavior, or your performance in the physical field sobriety tests. You are under no obligation to respond to questions about what you've had to drink or what you've been doing, nor are you required to perform the physical sobriety testing. So basically those roadside questions and tests could make or break your case if you refuse to blow, and in the case of a forced blood test, on what blood alcohol level or drug positives you end up with. Remember, a .08 isn't absolutely required for a DWI conviction.

   It is the individual's decision if they want to submit to the roadside testing. But the refusal downtown is part of the implied consent laws in NC. Your consent is implied in your privilege to drive, so if you refuse you must eat the 1 year suspension. There is a chance after 6 months to petition the court for a driving privilege, but the customary limited privileged that is granted with most DWI convictions will not be available. There also exists an opportunity to challenge the DMV refusal suspension, but success in beating this suspension is not usually had. 

   Ultimately, I think refusal downtown can be a bad idea. Many attorneys may disagree, but that is my take. The only time I'd recommend refusing to blow is if the suspect has refused to make statements, and has refused all other sobriety testing. Unfortunately, most defendants ruin their case on the side of the road by talking, submitting to field sobriety testing, and believing this cooperation will help them. The case is already nearly sealed at this point, and the refusal downtown nearly guarantees no driving privilege. 

   The best, and safest solution is to limit alcohol and drug intake to times when driving is not required. And if you do have a beer or two, don't drive. That way no question exists as to your safety behind the wheel, or putting yourself in legal jeopardy. Regardless, be sure to contact a good Asheville, NC DWI defense attorney if you are charged with impaired driving in or near our fine city. 

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