In North Carolina, a police officer must provide evidence that an individual is impaired in order to charge that individual with Driving While Impaired (DWI). To accomplish this goal, police officers generally rely on the following methods to produce this evidence: a police officer’s observations, alcohol detection technology, and field sobriety tests.
Police Officer’s Observations
One of the most important indicators in a police officer’s arsenal is their own observation of the individual charged. Unless the police officer is a brand new graduate with no DWI experience, most police officer often have a wealth of experience and knowledge from the countless DWI arrests they have made. As such, they are quite capable of identifying factors of intoxication. This is especially important since it is required in order to establish reasonable suspicion required in order to stop an individual for suspected DWI. Upon establishing probable cause or reasonable suspicion for pulling an individual over, a police officer will then attempt to interact with the individual in order to confirm their suspicions. This can be done through the use of some of the following questions: “Have you been drinking tonight?” “How many drinks have you had?” During this exchange, a police officer will also be looking to see if the individual smells of alcohol, slurs their words, or generally appears to be noticeably impaired.
Alcohol Detection Technology
Police officers can also employ various means of alcohol detection technology. The most common example of this is a handheld device known as a Breathalyzer. This device is issued to police officers to test individuals who are suspected of committing a DWI. When an individual blows into the device, the device provides an analysis of the individual’s breath with an estimated blood alcohol count (BAC) to the police officer. In order for this device to be effective in testing BAC, the police officer must follow certain standard procedures and make sure that the device is properly calibrated.
Police officers also have access to a device called the Intoxilyzer, a stationary device that is typically located at a police station. The Intoxilyzer allows police officers to determine a more accurate level of intoxication of a person. Like a breathalyzer, the Intoxilyzer provides a analysis of an individual’s BAC by having the individual blow through a tube for a certain amount of time. After the individual has blown, the Intoxilyzer tests the breath sample for alcohol content and displays an estimated BAC to the police officer. For accurate results, the Intoxilyzer must be used following certain standard procedures and must be properly calibrated.
Finally, a police officer can use a blood test to determine an individual’s intoxication. This is often the most reliable form of testing, but also the most invasive and costly. Additionally, a blood test is not always guaranteed due to the time required to obtain one and the lack of available qualified personnel to draw blood.
Field Sobriety Tests
An officer can ask you to perform field sobriety tests that display how well you have control of your physical and mental capacities. The more of these tests that you fail, the higher the probability that you are impaired. Additionally, these tests can be used as evidence at trial to prove your impairment.
There are two types of FSTs: Standardized Field Sobriety Tests and Non-Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. The three Standardized Field Sobriety Tests are:
The Non-Standardized Tests include:
- The Finger Dexterity Test;
- The Alphabet Test;
- The Romberg Balance Test;
For these tests to be effective, police officers must strictly comply with the required procedures when performing the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.
If you have been charged with a DWI, don’t hesitate to Contact Us at Minick Law, P.C. for a free consultation. We will zealously fight your charges in order to receive the best possible outcome of your case.
James Minick is founder and C.E.O. of Minick Law, P.C. James is committed to providing top notch legal services through his team of highly specialized legal professionals. James will defend your rights.