Getting pulled over by a North Carolina patrol officer can be a distressing experience. If the officer tells you to exit your vehicle, it’s likely that your situation might be going from bad to worse. If a police officer approaches your car and allows you to stay behind the wheel, the stop might be brief and result in a warning or a minor traffic ticket. An officer asking you to exit your vehicle, however, usually means that he or she suspects you of impaired driving, which may result in DUI charges.
If a police officer takes you into custody for suspected drunk driving, you’ll face numerous decisions in your near future, including what type of plea to enter in court. You might wonder if it’s best to plead guilty, and that decision is ultimately up to you. There are several factors to consider that may help you make an informed decision.
Did the police officer have reasonable cause to make a traffic stop?
Police in North Carolina and all other states must have a legitimate reason for pulling you over in a traffic stop. If a patrol officer plans on making a DUI stop, it might mean that he or she witnessed your vehicle veering over the yellow line or that your driving behavior was erratic in some way. If you’re told to exit your vehicle, you must comply, but you’re not obligated to plead guilty to DUI charges if you face an arrest.
Was probable cause established before your arrest?
In addition to having a legitimate reason to pull you over, a police officer must establish probable cause if he or she plans on taking you into custody for suspected drunk driving. Most police officers use preliminary alcohol screening tests to establish probable cause; this might include a roadside breath test or field sobriety test.
You’re not obligated to take a preliminary alcohol screening test. There are no administrative penalties or legal repercussions for refusing. If you refuse but still wind up facing DUI charges, you can almost be certain that prosecutors will use the fact that you refused preliminary alcohol screening tests to try to incriminate you in court, which they are allowed to do.
Did a police officer search your vehicle or person?
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects you against unlawful search and seizure. In most cases, police must obtain a validly authorized warrant to search your person or private property. There are exceptions to this rule, however, such as if an officer claims to have seen an open bottle of alcohol inside your car during a traffic stop.
If you believe that a personal rights violation took place leading up to, during or following your arrest and subsequent filing of DUI charges, you can take legal steps to request the dismissal of your case or that certain evidence be ruled inadmissible in court.
Facing DUI charges does not always result in a conviction
If you receive DUI charges against you in North Carolina and your case goes to trial, presenting a strong defense may help produce a positive outcome. To make an informed decision regarding whether to plead guilty, it’s important to understand your rights and be able to analyze the process that took place leading up to and following your arrest.
It’s helpful to speak with someone who is well-versed in the criminal laws of this state before the time comes to enter a plea.