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DWI/DUI case spotlights smartphone drunk driving app

Let's take a recently developed online drunk driving application for a brief figurative spin around the block.

At initial glance, a number of people will undoubtedly find the tool to be appropriately named. It is called the "Oh Crap! App," which certainly conjures up immediately the sentiment that many motorists who have had a drink or two have when suddenly noting flashing blue lights coming from a vehicle behind them.

And activating the smartphone-accessible app will quickly serve up a few reminders to a stopped driver waiting for a police officer to approach his or her vehicle regarding how to respond to a clearly singular and stressful situation.

To wit: Don't panic. Be reasonably polite. Opt for silence over, well, blabbing the night's details to a uniformed authority figure with arrest powers.

The Oh Crap! App -- which reportedly has been downloaded by about 100,000 users across the country -- has an additional feature that is garnering some media notice, namely, its ability to contact an on-call defense attorney.

That feature was recently employed by one driver, resulting in the first documented case in which the app played a role in the reversal of a DWI conviction.

The ruling of a judge in that matter was reversed on appeal, with an appellate tribunal ruling that the request for a lawyer was made within the state's two-hour statutory window allowing for a suspect's in-person consultation with legal counsel. The arresting officer in the case refused to wait and administered a breath test before the applicable time period had expired.

The bottom line with such a tool is that it can certainly be useful in some instances. Alternatively, though, online DWI apps might not work as advertised and might even provide users with incorrect information that could make their drunk driving-related stops more complex and difficult than would otherwise be the case.

A sound approach in any DWI case in North Carolina or elsewhere is for a detained motorist to ask immediately for the opportunity to contact an attorney and otherwise remain silent.  That includes declining Field Sobriety Tests such as the Walk & Turn, One Leg Stand and Gaze Nystagmus. 

Representation from a proven DWI defense attorney can sometimes make a material difference in a drunk driving case. A motorist must first invoke that legal right, though.

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