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In Raleigh and elsewhere in North Carolina, if you are stopped while driving your vehicle and asked to perform any field sobriety tests to test for impairment, you are fully within your rights to simply decline.  If you are suspected of a DWI, you are not required to recite the alphabet from the middle, or count backwards, or follow a pen with your eyes, or balance on one foot, or walk a straight line.  For that matter, you are not required to blow into a portable breathalyzer that many officers in Wake County and elsewhere in the state carry in their vehicles.

So what happens if you refuse?  In short, the State is permitted under NCGS 20-139.1(f) to admit the fact of your refusal into evidence in any action against you, including your trial:

(f)        Evidence of Refusal Admissible. – If any person charged with an implied‑consent offense refuses to submit to a chemical analysis or to perform field sobriety tests at the request of an officer, evidence of that refusal is admissible in any criminal, civil, or administrative action against the person.

While you’d certainly be better off with the government introducing evidence that you performed a field sobriety test with absolute precision, that’s not going to happen, probably even if you were stone cold sober at the time.  The tests are designed to produce incriminating evidence (and besides, the only evidence will be the officer’s own subjective analysis — the purpose of which is to convict you), and you’re better off not putting yourself in a position to have to explain why you lost your balance halfway through your test, even if you were 100% sober.  It’s much easier to explain, after the government introduces evidence of your refusal, that you didn’t comply with the test because you know the tests are unreliable and that you knew that you weren’t required to comply, and because you knew you hadn’t done anything wrong you didn’t feel obligated to do their little dance.


Raleigh DWI lawyer Ben Hiltzheimer is a criminal lawyer in Raleigh, North Carolina, who represents individuals charged with DWIs and the full spectrum of misdemeanors and felonies. Contact us for a free, confidential consultation and case evaluation at (919) 727-9227.

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Ben is an experienced trial lawyer who earned his law degree from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He was trained in trial practice at the nation’s preeminent Public Defender agency, the federally funded Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, described by United States Attorney General Eric Holder as “the best public defender office in the country.”

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