If You Refuse to Walk and Turn, Will You Lose Your License?

If you happen to be driving home after a night out with friends in North Carolina, and a police officer flashes lights for you to pull over, the incident will be far from isolated. This type of thing happens nearly every day to someone, somewhere in the state. It's crucial to remain as calm and cooperative as possible when you wind down your window and meet the onslaught of questioning likely to occur.

If, at some point, the officer asks you to exit your vehicle, you can logically assume he or she suspects of you a crime, most likely DWI. If that's the case, the officer may request that you take several field sobriety tests. Many motorists mistakenly believe they're legally obligated to do so. You are not; such tests are voluntary and incur no criminal or administrative penalty upon refusal. Chemical testing, however, is another story. By implied consent law, you will automatically sustain license suspension if you refuse such tests.

Difference between field sobriety checks and chemical tests

A chemical test typically involves blood, breath or urine. In other words, if a police officer asks you to take a Breathalyzer test, for instance, or to submit to a blood or urine sample, he or she is asking you to undergo chemical testing. If you refuse, you will incur automatic penalties. The following list tells about other types of police observation tools known as field sobriety checks:

  • Walk-and-turn: This field sobriety test checks your balance, gait and ability to follow instructions. You'll likely have to hold your arms outward at shoulder length while walking a straight line in a heel-toe manner for a certain number of steps. Then you will turn and repeat the actions in the opposite direction. If you stumble, lower your arms or otherwise act as though you are not in complete control of our movements, you may wind up in the back of a police car.
  • One-leg stance: Have you ever tried to balance on one leg for 30 seconds? It is not easy even if you are completely sober at the time! Police officers in North Carolina and other states continue to use this test, however, to gauge whether they have probable cause for DWI arrests. Not only will you have to stand on one leg for what may seem like eternity at the time, you will probably have to count aloud by 100s or 1000s while doing so.
  • Vision testing: The horizontal gaze nystagmus test measures erratic eyeball movement when you gaze from side to side. A police officer will often hold a pen or a finger in front your face and instruct you to follow the object using only your eyes, not your head. He or she may move it up and down, or left to right. All people have a maximum vision point where their eyeballs will jerk erratically. However, intoxicated people's eyes often jerk long before reaching their maximum peripheral vision points.

If an officer places you under arrest for possible DWI, try not to panic, especially if it's the first time you've ever been in such a situation. There are often several options available for avoiding conviction.

Who can help?

Those who have faced DWI charges in the past understand how beneficial it can be to retain immediate, experienced legal assistance when preparing for criminal proceedings.