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DWI cases and procedural errors and violations

We've discussed in previous posts some of the penalties individuals who are convicted of a DWI in North Carolina may face. There's no doubt that the financial and personal costs associated with a drunk driving conviction are significant and individuals who are facing criminal charges would be wise to contact a defense attorney and explore their options.

Contrary to what many people believe, DWI cases can be successfully defended and an attorney will closely investigate the facts of a DWI stop and arrest to determine whether any procedural errors or violations occurred.

For example, an attorney can look at whether the stop of the defendant's vehicle was lawful.  Did the officer have reasonable suspicion? Did the officer see some vioaltion of motor vehicle law or was it just normal driving activity?  For example, a delayed start of a few seconds when a red light turns to green might not be sufficient.  Same for weaving in the lane or spinning tires.  Was the DWI/DUI checkpoint properly constructed?  What was the "primary programmatic purpose"? Was the location and time of the checkpoint designed to fulfill a valid law enforcement need? Was the public put on notice of the checkpoint?

Then, the attorney can look at the probable cause for the DWI/DUI arrest decision.  Did the officer do the Field Tests properly and were they qualified to do so?  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has certain tests that should be performed in a very precise way, and even then those tests are only 65-68% reliable.  Did the officer use his Portable Breath Test properly?

If the defendant had a Blood Alcohol Content ("BAC") over .08, the attorney should look at the maintenance schedule for the Intox EC IR II and whether the officer performed the test correctly, including waiting for witnesses to arrive.

Was the defendant released promptly as required by Statute?

In any DWI case, it's important to note that a police officer cannot arbitrarily pull a driver over. Legally, a police officer must have what's referred to as reasonable suspicion that a driver committed a crime. For example, a police officer may fulfill the reasonable suspicion requirement after witnessing a driver's vehicle drifting into an adjacent lane or crossing the center line.

Regardless of what occurs after a traffic stop, in cases where a police officer did not have reasonable suspicion to stop a driver, a defense attorney will fight to have a case dismissed. In addition to procedural laws related to reasonable suspicion, police officers must also follow certain rules when conducting a DWI traffic stop.

For example, when a driver who is suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol is pulled over, he or she is asked to submit to a series of field sobriety tests and, in most cases, one or more blood alcohol level tests. These tests are typically conducted under difficult conditions in which a driver is likely scared and nervous and an arresting officer could make mistakes that adversely impact test results.

In any DWI case, it's important to secure legal representation. There are numerous factors that must be investigated and considered, many of which can significantly impact the outcome of a case.

Source:, "DUI Stop," Feb. 25, 2015

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