Defenses to a DWI Charge
February 9th, 2022
If you were arrested and charged with Driving While Impaired (DWI) in North Carolina, even if you think you are guilty, it is important to remember that you have valuable legal rights and defenses that can minimize the effect of a DWI charge or conviction. An experienced DWI defense attorney has strategies he can employ to challenge the evidence against you and defend you against a DWI charge.
Many of these DWI defense strategies will depend on the specific circumstances of your arrest. When you work with the Stowe Law Firm, PLLC, North Carolina DWI defense lawyer Ryan Stowe will evaluate your case to identify key information that can be used to your advantage. This may include challenging the basis for the initial traffic stop and the evidence that was collected to try to prove that you were impaired, as well as Constitutional challenges that address the way evidence was collected and whether it can be presented in court.
If you are facing DWI charges in North Carolina, DWI defense attorney Ryan Stowe can help. Read more about how he can defend you against a North Carolina DWI charge and fight to have the charges against you reduced, the penalties minimized, or even have the case dismissed.
How to Beat a DWI Charge
To prove that you are guilty of Driving While Impaired, the prosecutor must prove that:
- You were driving;
- On a public street or highway; and
- You were “under the influence” of drugs or alcohol.
To convict someone of Driving While Impaired, the prosecution must prove all three of these elements, beyond a reasonable doubt. A successful DWI defense will target some or all of these elements of the crime.
Challenging the “Driving” Element of a DWI Charge
It may sound obvious, but you need to actually be driving a vehicle to be convicted of a DWI. If you were sleeping behind the wheel while your vehicle was parked, or if you were intoxicated but the key was not in the ignition or the vehicle was not turned on, a DWI defense lawyer can use this information to challenge the first prong of a DWI charge and argue that you cannot be convicted of a DWI because you were not actually driving.
“On a Public Street or Highway”
In North Carolina, you can only be convicted of a DWI if you were driving on a public street highway. If, for example, you were on private property, you cannot be convicted of a DWI.
If you were charged with a DWI but were not on a public street or highway, your DWI defense attorney can use this fact to challenge the DWI charge.
Were You Under the Influence?
If you were actually driving a vehicle, on a public street or highway, and were charged with DWI, you can challenge the evidence that will be used to show that you were impaired.
Challenging Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)
The National Highway Travel and Safety Administration (NHTSA) recognizes three scientifically approved tests that can be used to establish probable cause to arrest someone under suspicion of DWI. These are: (1) the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test; (2) the walk and turn test; and (3) the one-leg stand.
Police officers often administer other tests that have not been recognized as being scientifically valid by the NHTSA.
Regardless of the tests administered, the police officer must testify about your performance on the tests and whether he or she observed signs of impairment.
If you performed poorly on the FSTs, a DWI defense attorney might introduce other explanations for your poor performance, such as a medical condition, fatigue, or the condition of the road where the tests were performed.
At Stowe Law Firm we will evaluate whether the field sobriety tests were administered to you correctly. If the police officer or state trooper made any mistake in administering your field sobriety tests our office will challenge the FSTs.
Inaccurate Blood, Breath, or Urine Test Results
Law enforcement likely asked you to submit to either a blood test, a breath test, or a urine test. The sample was analyzed to determine your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). If your BAC was .08% or higher, you are presumed to be legally intoxicated.
But if there were problems with how the blood, breath, or urine test was administered, or if there are problems with the chain of custody, a skilled DWI defense attorney can have the test results invalidated and they cannot be considered as evidence of your alleged intoxication.
Constitutional Defenses to a DWI Charge
Finally, there are technical legal defenses that might be available to you. A DWI defense lawyer can challenge the initial basis for the traffic stop, whether the officer had probable cause to believe you were intoxicated, and whether you were properly given your Miranda warnings.
Anytime someone is placed under arrest, the police officer must have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. If the police officer did not have probable cause to believe you committed a crime in the first place, the entire basis for the traffic stop can be called into question and any evidence obtained could be thrown out.
Likewise, at any time during the investigation, if the officer lacks probable cause to believe you committed a crime the investigation must stop. If the officer continued the investigation without probable cause, any evidence obtained after that point can be excluded from trial. And without evidence to convict you, the prosecutor will be forced to either dismiss the case or offer you a plea to a significantly reduced charge.
Finally, if you were placed under arrest but were not advised of your Miranda rights, statements you made may not be admissible in court. If you made an incriminating statement to the police but were not advised of your rights under Miranda, those statements cannot be used to try to convict you.
The Stowe Law Firm: Serious Defense for Serious Crimes
Defending against a DWI charge is difficult, but there is hope. Criminal defense attorney Ryan Stowe will evaluate the circumstances of your arrest and advise you of your legal options to defend against the charge.
Mr. Stowe has completed the same or more DWI training as the police officer that arrested you. He can use this knowledge and his experience to present a compelling defense to lessen the severity of the penalties for a DWI charge, have the charges against you reduced, or even have your case thrown out.