Can I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test in North Carolina?
Drunk driving is a serious offense and a risk to many drivers on the road. To discourage impaired driving, drunk driving is punishable by law. North Carolina law dictates that driving while impaired or driving with a blood alcohol content over 0.08% are both illegal and punishable by law.
If you have exhibited any signs of drunk driving, a police officer has probable cause to pull you over. Based on observations of your behavior and conducting sobriety tests, the officer may then determine that you are driving under the influence. In many cases, an officer will conduct a breath test with a breathalyzer to determine blood alcohol content level.
Driving is a privilege and not a right. Like many other states, North Carolina has an implied consent law. This means that all drivers who face a lawful arrest for impaired or drunk driving must submit to chemical testing to determine blood alcohol content level, including blood tests and breathalyzers.
Advisement of Implied Consent
Before any sort of testing can occur, a North Carolina police officer must advise the arrested driver of their rights, including:
- The right to refuse testing, with a penalty of immediate license revocation for at least a year
- That a BAC level at or exceeding 0.08% will result in license revocation for a minimum of 30 days
- The right to contact a Raleigh DWI lawyer or witness to observe the testing procedures so long as the arrival of a witness does not take longer than 30 minutes
- The right to seek an additional alcohol test upon release from custody
An officer must give this advisement before conducting even a roadside breathalyzer test prior to making an arrest. The officer will usually ask the driver to sign a form that indicates he or she received the advisory and understood the rights within it.
Refusing a Breathalyzer Test
What’s notable about the advisement of implied consent is that a driver may refuse any form of chemical testing. However, doing so is not without consequences, as refusal of chemical testing is a violation of implied consent laws. The driver will face an immediate revocation of his or her license of up to a year, or possibly longer. Even if the driver’s court case does not end in conviction for impaired or drunk driving, this license revocation is still in effect.
Following six months of license suspension for refusal, the driver may petition the court for a limited driving privilege. Such privileges only allow driving for school, work, and rehabilitation programs.
Refusing a breathalyzer or other forms of chemical testing can also result in a DWI conviction, even if law enforcement does not have a record of the driver’s BAC level. Courts will often interpret the refusal for a breathalyzer test as an admission on the driver’s part that he or she was, in fact, driving under the influence.
Best Course of Action
Though you can legally refuse a breathalyzer test, it may not be the smartest move. A refused test will result in license suspension and brings the added potential of a court determining you were guilty of a DWI offense.
If an officer ever pulls you over for suspected drunk driving, it is in your best interest to comply with any chemical testing. While there is a chance you won’t receive a DWI conviction, law enforcement has many other ways to determine if you are driving under the influence, such as your behavior on the road and when interacting with the officer. If you are not above the legal limit of BAC, a breathalyzer result can prevent the need for additional chemical testing and help prove you innocent.