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Frequently Asked Questions about DUI in North Carolina

Can I be stopped and arrested for DUI even if the vehicle was not moving in North Carolina?

Yes.  North Carolina defines driver and operator as “A person in actual physical control of a vehicle which is in motion or which has the engine running.”  Using this definition, an individual may be arrested for DUI for simply sitting in his or her car with the engine running, so long as they are doing so in a public vehicular area.  This includes such areas as highways, streets, and parking lots.

Do I have the right to talk to an attorney before I give a sample in North Carolina?

Yes.   North Carolina gives a person being subjected to implied consent testing the explicit right to speak with an attorney before being tested.  However, this right will not be a reason for delay in testing.  After a driver has been notified of his or her right to speak with an attorney, the individual will have 30 minutes with which to contact and speak with any attorney.  After 30 minutes, the driver will be tested even if the driver has not sought counsel.  The policy for this 30 minute rule is that large amounts of time between the alleged offense and testing can weigh as to the validity of the exam.

Do I have to give a blood or urine sample in North Carolina?

As with most states, a person in North Carolina does have the right to refuse to give a blood or urine sample, even for implied consent offenses when the individual is under arrest.  However, there are penalties for a refusal to submit to testing, and the refusal can be used as evidence in a subsequent trial to prove the defendant’s guilt.

Do I have to submit to a field sobriety test in North Carolina?

Generally, no.  Prior to arrest in North Carolina, an individual has the right to refuse to submit to physical field sobriety tests.   Evidence of refusing to submit to field sobriety tests cannot be used against a defendant in a subsequent trial.  However, if the driver chooses to submit to testing, the results of a breath test or the observations of the officer during physical tests are admissible as evidence of the driver’s impairment.

North Carolina law does allow for some individuals to be required to submit to pre-arrest alcohol screening, usually involving a mobile breathalyzer used roadside.  Individuals who may be required to submit to this type of field sobriety test are commercial vehicle drivers and drivers under the age of 21.

What are the Open Container laws in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, it is unlawful to carry an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of any motor vehicle, including when the vehicle is parked.   In a commercial vehicle, closed alcohol containers are also prohibited.  Containers of alcohol are considered to be open if the seal on the container is broken.

There are a couple exceptions to the above rule.  When the driver or operator of a motor vehicle has not consumed any alcoholic beverage, an open container of beer, malt liquor, ale, hard lemonade, table wine, or champagne is allowed in the passenger area when:

  1. It is in the passenger area of a motor vehicle designed, manufactured, and used primarily for transportation of persons for compensation.  This includes vehicles such as buses and taxis.
  2. The vehicle is a house trailer
  3. The passenger area is a motor home or home car.

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