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The Do's and Don'ts of DWI in North Carolina (Part 1)

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal, regardless of whether you get caught. It is crucial to understand your rights, should you find yourself in a position where you are having to deal with law enforcement. You have rights under the law, and those rights must be protected. A highly skilled criminal defense attorney will help. Here are some things to keep in mind if you find yourself in that situation.

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Do's

1. Know the legal limits. In North Carolina, the general rule is that if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08% or higher, you are exceeding the state's legal limits. And if it is a subsequent citation, there could be mandatory jail time. If you are under 21 years old, the state has a "zero tolerance" policy.

2. Ask why you have been stopped. The officer should give you a reason. If he doesn't, then politely refuse to answer any questions until he does. It is a violation of your Constitutional rights for an officer to stop you on a hunch or because you "look suspicious" .

3. Once the officer gives you a reason for  the stop (i.e. you ran a red light, speeding, you crossed the center line) don't let the interogation go in another direction.  You may tell the officer, "I dropped my cell phone, that is why I swerved, I appoligize"; or "I thought I was going 35", but don't let a speeding stop turn into a DWI investigation. If the officer asks you questions that don't pertain to the conduct he observed (i.e. "where are you coming from?"; "have you had anything to drink this evening?"), politely refuse to answer those questions. I would suggest something like, "officer, you said you stopped me for speeding, I'm not going to do or say anything else at this point".

4. Be polite but firm. Officers of the law are entitled to see your driver's license, registration and proof of insurance, but you are under no obligation to give them anything else.  Never agree to let an officer search you or your vehicle. 

5. Request to call an attorney if the officer does not respect these rights. Know that whatever an attorney costs, it's likely that a conviction will cost more. Just 2 Insurance points in North Carolina can raise your insurance rates by 45%.

Don'ts

1. Do not move suddenly or unpredictably. Officers are trained to watch for erratic and unpredictable behavior. Any perceived assault on them, no matter how small, can escalate a situation immediately.

2. Do not agree to a search of your person or your car. Simply say "no, I do not give consent." As soon as you say "sure" or "I don't care" you've likely forfeited that right and the officer will begin to search you and your car.

3. Do not curse or yell at the officer. While you may be "mad" enough to curse given the situation, cursing may cause the officer to think you are becoming aggressive, and you can rest assure he will testify in court that you were angry and cursing at him. The best practice is to try and remain calm and be polite but firm when dealing with the officer.

4. Do not automatically pay any ticket that you've been issued. Again, weigh the cost of a ticket versus the cost of having a violation on your record. One call to an attorney may make a huge difference.

In summary, it's a good idea to keep the number for a criminal defense attorney who has a focus on DWI cases in your contact list on your mobile phone, especially if you're the kind of person who thinks they might one day get pulled over for a DWI. It's also a good idea to keep that number for a friend, too.

Take note of our number and call us if you find yourself in a situation where you need your rights protected in case of a DWI incident. We can help you now to avoid bigger problems later: 828-358-2776.

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