The best way to have a fighting chance is to know your rights. Exercise your right not to make incriminating statements. Always have your license and registration easily accessible whenever you are driving because that is usually the first request when pulled over. Understand that saying you only had a “couple drinks” is what everyone says and leads to more questions and field sobriety tests. Trying to pass field sobriety tests even when sober is like trying to win a prize at the carnival- much harder than is appears. So what are your rights?
1. You have the right to not answer questions. 2. You have the right to refuse all sobriety tests.
So what should you do if pulled over for drunk driving?
1. Have you license and registration readily
available at all times to the hand to the officer. The officer has been trained to ask you
for two things at once. This is called a divided attention test. Failure
to produce both, fumbling to produce both, or failing to answer compound
questions accurately and quickly enough are clues of impairment.
2. Do not have gum or mints in your
mouth as they are seen as a clue that you are trying to mask the smell of
3. Be prepared for the following questions:
- Where are you coming from?
- Where are you going?
- Have you been drinking tonight?
4. Understand you may refuse to answer
any questions you wish and admitting to drinking will be used against you
in Court. Even if you say you only had a couple drinks!
5. If the officer asks you to step out of the car you must. Do not put your
hands on the car or lean on anything as this is a clue of impairment.
6. The next thing you can expect is the officer shining a light in your eyes to
check if they are red shot. They may even ask you to follow a light with
your eyes. This is one of several NC field sobriety tests called
the HGN or Horizontal Nystagmus Test. You should
7. If they ask you to count backwards- YOU
8. If they ask you to walk a straight line- YOU SHOULD REFUSE.
9. If they ask you to stand on one leg- YOU SHOULD REFUSE.
10. If they ask you to blow into a portable alcohol sensor. YOU SHOULD REFUSE.
The common misconception is that you can’t refuse these tests or that if you refuse to blow into the portable alco-sensor you will lose your license. FACT: Although your refusal to take field sobriety tests is admissible in Court (see NCGS 20-139.1(f)), they are nearly impossible to pass under the best of circumstances. If they have probable cause to arrest and you refuse to blow into the Intoxilizer downtown or in the portable BAT mobile then you may be subject to a one (1) year civil revocation of your license. I am often asked by clients if they should blow downtown. This is a difficult question to answer as there is the one (1) year civil revocation penalty that may result by refusal, not to mention refusing to blow downtown may be used against you in Court. But always remember you can and should call a witness and have 30 minutes to wait before they arrive. You should always exercise this right as it gives your body an extra 30 minutes to process any alcohol. Also be aware that if you refuse to blow a magistrate may order a blood sample taken without your consent.
Don’t forget the only sure way to beat a DWI is to never drink and drive.