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Arrested for Drunk Driving in North Carolina? What Happens Next

If you are arrested for drunk driving in North Carolina, the first thing that will happen is a magistrate setting the terms of your release. Depending on your record, the state may also tow and impound the car you drove. In many cases, you’ll be released on a written promise or unsecured bond and won’t have to pay any money. However, if you are given a secured bond, you’ll need to pay for your release from jail. If you cannot afford bail, you must wait in jail until your court date to plead your case. Let’s look at DWI charges and what happens if you get arrested for drunk driving in North Carolina.

What is Drunk Driving in North Carolina?

Driving while impaired (DWI) is when you operate a vehicle after consuming alcohol or drugs. Even over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription drugs can impair you enough that an officer may pull you over for driving erratically. However, the officer must have a clear reason for pulling you over.

If you fail sobriety tests, you can receive a DWI, even without drinking alcohol or using illicit drugs. For example, let’s say you take pain medication as prescribed, but you feel woozy and funny. You need to get to a friend’s house, though, so you jump behind the wheel and head over. The problem begins when you drive 10 under the speed limit and weave around in your lane. 

An officer stops you and asks what medications or alcohol you’ve taken. Instead of keeping quiet and letting the officer know that you won’t speak without your attorney present, you try to be cooperative and say that you only took 2 of your pain pills. You tell the officer all about your recent surgery, and he seems very interested in hearing all about it. 

What you don’t realize is that officers can use anything you say against you, so speaking about your circumstances can destroy your defense.

Contacting an experienced DWI attorney immediately is crucial to help you defend against DWI allegations. The consequences can be dire if your defense strategy is not airtight (along with your lips). 

When Can I Get a DWI for Drunk Driving In North Carolina?

Driving drunk is illegal with any type of vehicle: anything from a bicycle to a golf cart to a scooter.

And if you are in or on your vehicle in a public street or parking lot while inebriated, law enforcement can arrest you for DWI. It doesn’t matter if you’re not driving at that moment if you’re behind the wheel when the car is on. 

You could be taking a nap in a public parking lot with your engine running while “sleeping it off” and receive a DWI!

There are a few ways you can face DWI and arrest for drunk driving in North Carolina:

  • Failing a field sobriety test and being “appreciably impaired”
  • 0.08% or higher on a breathalyzer test
  • .04% if a commercial driver or driving kids for school, etc
  • Chemical testing showing substance impairment

If you are arrested for DWI, you may lose your driver’s license and the car you were driving (whether it is yours or not!). You will then need to make bail or stay in jail until your hearing time, when you will plead your case.

However, without an attorney to defend your rights, you don’t stand much chance of beating your charges. So let’s look at the consequences of a DWI conviction next.

Consequences of Getting Arrested for Drunk Driving

If you are convicted, you will face the consequences, depending on your DWI offense, previous criminality, age, and license type. Some penalties may include:

  • Monetary penalties.
  • Jail time. In some cases, jail time is mandatory.
  • Community service.
  • Revocation or suspension of driver’s license.
  • Higher car insurance premiums or insurance companies who refuse to insure you at all.
  • License suspension of one year for your first offense.
  • License suspension of four years for your second offense
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device in your vehicle
  • Wearing a Continuous Alcohol Monitoring System on your person

Getting arrested for drunk driving is a serious offense. If officers arrest you for DWI, you must speak to an attorney who can help you navigate the legal system. An experienced DWI attorney will know how to defend your case and get the best possible outcome.

What to Do if Arrested For Drunk Driving

If you are arrested for drunk driving, the best thing to do is remain calm and polite to the officer. Do not try to talk your way out of the situation or argue with the officer.

It is also important not to say anything that officers can use against you in court. For example, do not admit to drinking or apologize for your actions. Instead, ask to speak to an attorney.

An attorney can help you understand the charges against you and build a strong defense. If you face arrest for drunk driving, contact an experienced DWI attorney immediately to mitigate your possible penalties.

An experienced attorney may use many possible defenses to protect your rights and reduce DWI charges. Sometimes, an attorney can negotiate with the DA to dismiss your case.

Crucial DWI Defenses in North Carolina


A Knoll Motion refers to a 1984 NC case where Mr. Knoll blew a .30, which is much higher than the legal limit of .08. However, the judge dismissed his case because his attorney challenged the state’s actions violating his rights.

If a magistrate keeps you in jail unnecessarily on bond, they step on your rights to find witnesses who can attest to your behavior during the DWI arrest time period. If you don’t pose a danger to yourself or others and have no criminal convictions, there is no legal reason why the magistrate would set a bond for you.

You have the right to witnesses when you prepare your defense. If the magistrate keeps you away from potential witnesses by keeping you in jail on a bogus bond, they circumvent your rights! A judge may dismiss your case outright before it even arrives in a courtroom!


In NC, you have the right to a witness present when you submit to a test of your breath. It is your constitutional and statutory right for law enforcement to give you access to a witness. 

An officer must read your rights to you, which include:

  • A period of 30 minutes to contact a witness to meet you at a station and observe your test.
  • An officer must inform you that you may call a witness to observe the testing.
  • If your witness arrives in time, but law enforcement does not let them into the room to observe your testing, they’ve violated your rights.

A judge may throw out your chemical testing results or even dismiss your case if:

  • The officer does not read you your DWI informed consent rights.
  • Your witness arrives and is not allowed into the intox room to observe the testing. If this happens, the judge can suppress your breath test results or dismiss your case.


In the 2009 case of Mr. Absher, the government allowed the destruction of a video in their custody. Mr. Absher’s faced negative consequences as a result. An ‘Absher Motion’ is a good defense when attempting to get a DWI dismissed because law enforcement has destroyed or lost evidence that would have helped the court see your innocence. 

Loss of evidence often occurs when:

  • Someone mislabels the video
  • Footage download doesn’t work properly
  • Accidental deletion
  • If officers lost something that would’ve minimized your guilt or helped your attorney effectively cross-examine witnesses against you, you can move for dismissal under an Absher Motion.

The State of North Carolina must legally volunteer evidence of your innocence even if you don’t explicitly request it. But if you DO request items favorable to your defense and the State fails to provide the evidence, their behavior may be a flagrant violation of your constitutional rights.

You can challenge your charges in many other ways also, including:

  • The stop of your vehicle
  • Your arrest
  • Post arrest procedure
  • No witness allowed
  • Officer losing video evidence that would have helped your case
  • Other witness testimony at the scene of an arrest
  • Steps that the magistrate took to hold you on a secured bond
  • And many more ways an experienced attorney can challenge your DWI charges!


At Scharff Law, our extensive experience with DWI cases means we know the various ways to defend against a DWI charge in North Carolina. If you’ve been arrested or are under investigation for a DWI in North Carolina, please call us for a free consultation. We will review your case and help determine the best possible defenses available to you.

If an officer stops you for DWI in Raleigh, call (919) 457-1954 to speak with an attorney from Scharff Law Firm. We can give you legal advice and stand by your side through the entire DWI process, including defending your rights in trial if necessary. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

You have a right to an attorney who can vigorously defend you against charges and find your best-case scenario moving forward. Contact us today at Scharff Law to find out how we can help you build your best DWI defense.