One moment, you’re headed home from work, errands or a social event. The next, you’re standing at the side of the road, trying to convince a law enforcement officer that it’s safe and legal for you to be behind the wheel. Impairment while driving can put anyone else on the road at risk, so it’s no surprise that North Carolina law enforcement officials do their best to deter impaired driving. That can mean a lot of frustration and inconvenience for law-abiding citizens.
You know you’re not drunk or otherwise chemically impaired, but you still feel nervous about taking a chemical breath test. You’ve probably read or heard on the news how commonly these devices can provide inaccurate readings. Anything from diabetes to cough medicine could result in a false positive, and that’s if the test unit is properly calibrated and the test is properly administered. You don’t want to cause problems, but you also don’t want to incriminate yourself. Should you take that test?
North Carolina law mandates chemical testing on the road
When an officer stops you for erratic or dangerous driving, he or she may suspect that you have had a few drinks. Officers may conduct roadside sobriety tests that focus on speech and balance, but there are plenty of reasons why people might seem to fail those tests while unimpaired. At that point, the officer has reasonable suspicion or probable cause to request that they take a chemical test.
North Carolina law is very clear that anyone who operates a motor vehicle on public roads accepts the potential for chemical impairment testing. This is called implied consent. Anyone stopped by police has already consented to chemical testing by driving. Refusing a chemical test has serious consequences. The first time someone refuses a chemical test, the result is loss of one’s driver’s license for a full year.
Refusing a test won’t protect you from charges
If you believe that refusing a chemical test will protect you from criminal charges associated with driving under the influence (DUI), you are sadly mistaken. The state of North Carolina can still bring criminal DUI charges against you without a chemical test confirming your impairment. The police officer who stopped you may testify about driving and other behaviors that implied intoxication. The courts may also view your refusal as an acknowledgment of guilt and an attempt to avoid charges.
Especially if you have a previous DUI offense on your record, refusing a chemical test won’t do much to help you legally. The courts won’t need the chemical test to convict you of a DUI. However, you will have to deal with any penalties for your DUI charge in addition to the loss of your license for refusing the test.