Your Rights in Asheville, North Carolina DWI Cases
It’s important to know your rights every step of the way when you’ve been charged with a DWI. There are specific legal rights to be aware of that apply to driving, being pulled over, being asked to step out of the car, and your current situation. It is essential to be informed of what your rights are and to hire a qualified defense attorney to protect those rights. This is how you can achieve the best possible outcome while facing these frightening charges.
You Have Rights While Driving
When you drive a vehicle on North Carolina roads, you have the right to do so without unreasonable interference from law enforcement. This means that a police officer must have an objective reason to believe that you are committing a crime before they take action to pull you over. Checkpoints are governed by a different set of rules, but in most cases you cannot be pulled over on a suspicion of intoxication unless there is an objective cause to do so. Even if you end up taking a breathalyzer test that revealed a 0.30 BAC, the court can dismiss the whole case if the State cannot prove that they had a “reasonable articulable suspicion” for the initial traffic stop.
You Have Rights When Stopped and/or Arrested
When you are pulled over and/or arrested in North Carolina, you have the right to refuse a breathalyzer or a field sobriety test. Even if there was a legitimate cause to pull you over, like speeding or having a broken taillight, the officers cannot force you to take these tests. They must have a reasonable and objective cause to suspect intoxication before investigating this.
Further, you have the right to remain silent and to have an attorney present before responding to any questions. Many people surrender this right while speaking to the police. The police officer may ask, “Have you been drinking?” And it is absolutely appropriate to respond by saying, “I would prefer to not answer any questions without an attorney present.”
The officer may ask you where you’re coming from, and even then, it is wisest not to answer the question. If the actual answer is that you are coming from a bar or from a party, then this is especially true. You may think that asking to speak to an attorney would indicate guilt, but this is not the case. There is no adverse consequence to requesting the presence of an attorney, but there are many consequences for saying the wrong thing to a police officer. Even if you lie about where you’re coming from, the lie can be used against you as evidence of guilt.
You can and should decline any portable breathalyzer test or field sobriety test. The only test that you are not allowed to refuse without consequence is the chemical analysis of your breath, which is typically only available at the police station. Because of North Carolina’s implied consent law, this test is required or you can lose your license for a full year. You do have a right to request that a witness or attorney be present while you submit to this chemical analysis. The police have to inform you of your rights in this situation and allow half an hour for you to get an attorney or witness to be present when you take this test.
You Have Rights After Arrest
If you have been arrested, you have a right to have an attorney present throughout the process. It is always in your best interests to get an attorney. You should never speak to any police officers or prosecutors after an arrest without having the attorney present. As soon as someone says that you have the right to speak to an attorney, exercise that right and request one. It is a mistake to try to talk your way out of the arrest. Your words can and will be used against you, and the District Attorney and police will work to prove your guilt, using everything that you have said. A committed Asheville DWI defense attorney in North Carolina can fight for your rights and ensure that you are treated fairly, while helping you to achieve the best possible outcome in your case. Choosing not to contact an attorney or speaking before one is present will harm the case.