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Evidence Admission of DUI in North Carolina

When prosecuting an individual for a DUI charge or charge of any other implied consent offense, the prosecutor will attempt to admit any evidence that the driver was impaired at the time of the alleged offense.  Generally this will involve calling the arresting officer to testify as to the appearance, demeanor, and actions of the defendant, offering evidence of the results of breath, blood, and urine testing of the defendant, and potentially calling any other witnesses who may have information that tends to prove the driver was impaired.  Defense counsel will attempt to suppress this evidence before trial, and if they are unable to do so, will attack the credibility of any witness as well as the methods and reliability of testing procedures and results.

In North Carolina, the prosecutor is allowed to produce evidence of field sobriety tests given to the defendant to determine impairment at a traffic stop.  Before this, the prosecutor will offer evidence as to the driver’s condition at the time of the stop.  The driver may have had the appearance of someone who may be impaired, including flushed cheeks and watery and/or red eyes.  If the driver’s speech was slow, slurred, and/or incoherent or he or she seemed nervous and jittery, the prosecution will often claim this is evidence of the driver being under the influence.  If the driver has trouble exiting the vehicle, walking after exiting the vehicle, or standing outside the vehicle, this will be offered as evidence of physical impairment.  If the driver was asked to submit to pre arrest physical tests and consented, any evidence of the driver’s impairment will be admissible in court to prove the defendant’s guilt.  If a pre arrest breath test is also consented to, this will also be admissible.  However, pre arrest field sobriety tests may be refused, and this refusal is NOT admissible against the defendant in a subsequent court proceeding or trial.  Although the above evidence will be generally admissible, the defense will be allowed to rebut this evidence or otherwise attack the reliability or credibility of any evidence admitted.

By statute, the results of implied consent chemical analysis of a defendant’s breath, blood, and urine are all admissible in any trial, hearing, or court proceeding.  However, in order be admissible, the tests must have been performed according to statutory requirements.  The official administering the tests must inform the defendant of certain provisions of implied consent law.  Tests must be administered by individuals who are correctly licensed and the tests must be performed according to specific valid testing methods proscribed by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.  One of these requirements is that the test sample be analyzed at an approved laboratory and the results must be submitted by that laboratory.  If the state plans to use the results in court, the prosecutor must give the defendant and his legal counsel a minimum of 15 days notice prior to the trial.

One extremely important provision in the statute relating to the admissibility of chemical analysis’ is the requirement of sequential breath tests.  In order for the results of implied consent breath testing to be admissible, the administering official must give sequential, or back-to-back, breath tests.  In addition, the results of the breath tests will only be admissible if they are within 0.02% of each other.  In the event that sequential tests reveal results that differ but are within 0.02%, the prosecutor will only be allowed to admit the lower of the two scores.

Though officer testimony and chemical analysis are the two main sources of evidence in a DUI trial, North Carolina statutory law makes any evidence tending to prove the guilt or innocence of the defendant generally admissible.  It is important to keep in mind that any evidence offered by either party can be rebutted and attacked by the other party.  Because of this, hiring experienced legal counsel is often crucial to the successful defense of any DUI charge.

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