Do I have to submit to the DUI roadside breath test in Charlotte?

It’s standard practice for Charlotte police and Mecklenburg County deputies to use roadside breath tests on drivers they suspect are over the legal limit for alcohol. Commonly known as breathalyzers, these devices are supposed to measure your blood-alcohol content (BAC) to help establish probable cause to arrest you.

Given how the breath test results can mean an arrest on a DWI charge, you might be wondering if you must take the test or if you have the right to refuse. The fact is, you do not have to submit to the roadside breath test. Though there are consequences for refusing that you should consider.

Typically, the roadside breath test is used to help the officer justify arresting a driver. The police then take the suspect to the station to take another, more official breath test or to the hospital for a blood test. You are legally required to submit to one of those tests.

Implied consent and breath test refusal

But refusing the roadside breath test is not a crime in North Carolina. At the same time, drivers in this state are subject to an implied consent law. By driving on any road in North Carolina, you implicitly consent to blowing into a breath test device when a police officer orders you to. However, violating the implied consent law does not mean you will go to jail or be forced to pay a fine. It does trigger a yearlong suspension of your driver’s license. And your refusal can be used as evidence against you if your DWI case goes to trial.

Whether you are willing to live with those consequences is up to you. But remember, everything the officer does during a stop is designed to gather evidence against you. You are not obligated to answer questions or consent to a request to search your vehicle without a warrant (though an order to submit to a search generally is a different story).

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