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Do You Have to Consent to a Pre-Arrest Breathalyzer Test in North Carolina?

One of the most common methods to determine a driver’s intoxication level is the ubiquitous Breathalyzer device. Motorists in North Carolina may have a vague understanding of how these tests work – and they may be somewhat familiar with the penalties associated with test refusal. However, the process of alcohol testing may be more complex than many motorists realize – especially when it comes to pre-arrest, preliminary alcohol screenings

What is a Preliminary Alcohol Screening?

Also known simply as a “PAS,” a preliminary alcohol screening occurs before you are placed under arrest under suspicion of DWI (driving while intoxicated). This is also known as a Preliminary Breath Test or “PBT.” Its purpose is to determine “probable cause” for an arrest. Across the United States, the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution prevents officers from arresting citizens without probable cause. 

Do I Have to Consent to a Preliminary Alcohol Screening in North Carolina?

You have no legal obligation to consent to preliminary alcohol screenings in North Carolina. If an officer requests that you perform this test prior to an arrest, you should be aware that this is, in fact, a request. It is not a legal order, and you will face no legal consequences for refusal. Note that officers may phrase these requests in ways that make you think that you have no choice. For example, “We’re going to need you to take a Breathalyzer test, okay?” Or, “You don’t mind if we run a quick alcohol test, do you?” 

Unless you have been placed under arrest, you can refuse to comply. There are some situations in which officers are allowed to compel you to take the test, however. Usually, these situations involve clear and obvious evidence of intoxication. Unless this evidence seems stacked up against you, it is usually in your best interests to refuse a PBT. 

What About “Implied Consent?”

Some drivers may have a vague understanding of a legal concept called “implied consent.” This means that as soon as you get your driver’s license in North Carolina, you automatically consent to all future alcohol-related tests. However, implied consent laws are only triggered after DWI arrests in North Carolina. 

If you are placed under arrest for a DWI, you face potential license suspension for refusing a test. That being said, it is possible to challenge a license suspension during a DMV hearing at a later date. Even if your license suspension is upheld after the hearing, it is possible to file a petition for a writ of mandamus that allows you to continue driving pending the outcome of a review by the Superior Court. 

Find a DWI Defense Attorney in North Carolina

If you have been searching for an experienced DWI defense attorney in North Carolina, look no further than Coastal South Law. Over the years, we have helped numerous defendants throughout the Tar Heel State – including those accused of DWIs. If you took a preliminary alcohol screening and an officer failed to inform you of your rights, the test result could be inadmissible in court. Book your consultation today to learn more. 

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