Hancock Law Firm discusses what you should know when taking a BAC test in North Carolina.

Taking a BAC Test in North Carolina

Unfortunately, sometimes people make a big error in judgment when they decide to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08. When someone is pulled over under the suspicion of drunk driving, the officer may ultimately choose to administer either a breath or a blood test. But do you have a choice?

BAC Tests

Even though the Breathalyzer test is the most commonly utilized test for determining an individual’s BAC, in North Carolina, there are three different ways to legally do so. These include:

  • Blood – Blood tests are the most accurate of the three types of BAC tests, although there still exists the possibility of invalidating your personal test itself due to mistakes/errors. 
  • Breath – In this type of test, an officer utilizes a portable device called a Breathalyzer, which measures the alcohol expelled on your breath. These tests are generally accurate. 
  • Urine – The least accurate of the three tests is a urine test, which should only be used when the other two methods are unavailable. Alcohol often takes up to two hours to show up in your urine, and can last in your system for up to 24 hours, commonly providing an inaccurate result. 

Consequences of a BAC Test Refusal

Anyone who is suspected of driving while impaired (DWI) may choose to either submit to or refuse a BAC test. 

North Carolina is an “implied consent” state, meaning that if a driver refuses to take a test, he or she will incur additional penalties. If you refuse to submit to the test, you may be subject to consequences including a one-year license suspension. Unfortunately, an individual does not have the right to choose which test they would like administered; only the officer can select that. 

Drivers who are taken to the police station may be subjected to a chemical breath test. If the officer wants you to take a blood test, you may be transported to a local hospital so that an authorized person may do so. 

Hancock Law Firm Helps Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Accused of Driving While Impaired

If you or a loved one has been accused of driving while impaired in North Carolina, you should take the steps necessary to protect your rights. A DWI conviction can have a serious impact on your life from your professional life to your personal life, to your freedoms. That is why it is so important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced North Carolina Criminal Law Attorney with experience fighting DWI charges. The attorneys at Hancock Law Firm can help. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Posted in DWI
Hancock Law Firm gives an overview of open container laws in North Carolina.

Open Container Laws in North Carolina

Although you are likely aware of the illegality of drinking and driving, you may not be as familiar with the illegality of transporting an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of a vehicle. People in a car that is parked are still in violation of the law. Whether or not you are 21 and allowed to consume alcoholic beverages is irrelevant to the law.  

A driver may not necessarily be charged; only the individual who possesses or consumes the alcoholic beverage will be charged. It is important to note that this is not a strict liability law, which means that in order for you to be convicted, you must have been in possession of alcohol and have consumed it. The law also applies to motorcycles, ATVs, golf carts, and commercial vehicles (unless they have a specific permit). There are a few exemptions to this law such as:

  • Taxis
  • Limousines
  • Living Quarters of Recreational Vehicles
  • Motor Homes
  • Other Vehicles for Hire

What is an Open Container?

Under North Carolina law, a container of alcohol is considered to be open if its seal is broken or if the alcohol has been in any way removed (i.e. an empty bottle of alcohol). It is not illegal to travel with closed containers (e.g. bottles or cans that have not been opened). 

Open containers may, however, be transported in areas of the vehicle that are not easily accessed such as the trunk – even if the trunk is still accessible from the passenger area (such as in a hatchback vehicle).

Those in North Carolina who are charged and convicted of an open container violation will face a class 3 misdemeanor for the first offense, which carries a fine of up to $200 and up to 20 days in jail. The punishments increase for any subsequent offenses to $1,000 and 60 days respectively. 

Those who are pulled over with an open container may also be suspected of driving while impaired and may be asked to submit to a breath test to determine their Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). You can be charged (and convicted) for an open container violation as well as a DWI.

Defending Yourself from An Open Container Conviction

There are potential defenses to an open container charge including how the stop was conducted and how the evidence was discovered. Warrantless searches, lack of reasonable suspicion for stopping your vehicle, and lack of probable cause may also be defenses. At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we recognize the long-term consequences of a criminal conviction, including difficulty finding a job or getting approved for housing. That is why it is so important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney. We will work to establish defenses to your charges or even have charges dismissed altogether. To learn more about what your best options may be, or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Posted in DWI
Hancock Law Firm discusses whether or not a DWI can be considered a felony.

Can a DWI Be a Felony in North Carolina?

In the state of North Carolina, when it comes to driving while impaired, most offenses are misdemeanors. But despite only being a misdemeanor, the consequences of such a conviction can still be severe. It can result in a substantial fine, suspension of your license, and even jail time. And if that isn’t bad enough, a felony DWI charge is even more serious.  

In What Cases Can a DWI be a Felony in NC?

You can be charged with a DWI in North Carolina if you have a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher. This is also the case if you have any amount of alcohol in your system and you are below the age of 21. A DWI doesn’t only relate to alcohol but is also applicable to prescription drugs and controlled substances. In this situation, the officer will judge your impairment based upon your performance on field sobriety tests. 

You can be charged with felony DWI in North Carolina if your circumstances include either of the following:

  • DWI-Related Fatalities – You may be charged with a DWI felony if you are alleged to be responsible for killing someone in an accident that was caused because you were under the influence. 
  • Repeat Drunk Driving Offenses – A DWI-related felony occurs if you are considered to be a habitual DWI offender under North Carolina law. Any subsequent drunk driving charges after that determination will be classified as a felony offense. A habitual DWI offender is someone who has three or more DWI offense convictions within the last 10 years. This also includes DWIs for individuals under the age of 21 and those who are convicted of DWI due to drugs.

The consequences of a felony DWI conviction are dependent upon the class of the felony:

  • Class B2 Felony – When considering the facts of your criminal history, those who commit death by vehicle may be found guilty of a Class B2 Felony. This is punishable by 94 to 393 months in prison.
  • Class D Felony – When considering the facts of your criminal history, those who commit death by vehicle may be found guilty of a Class D Felony. This is punishable by 38 to 160 months in prison. 
  • Class F Felony – Those charged as a habitual offender will be classified as a Class F Felony. This is punishable by 10 to 41 months in prison. 

There are additional consequences of a DWI conviction such as payment for court costs and other fees, employment issues, and revocation of your license. 

Defenses to DWI in NC

If you have been charged with DWI in North Carolina, there are possible defenses that you may be able to raise. You may be able to argue that your BAC number is invalid because the officer did not properly administer the test or the equipment was not adequately calibrated, or you may be able to raise a defense if your constitutional rights were violated (i.e. you were not read your Miranda Rights as you should have been, invalidating any incriminating statements you may have made).

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC We Help Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with a Crime

Since the consequences of both a misdemeanor DWI and a felony DWI are severe and will have a long-lasting effect on your life, it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney. At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you fight your charge. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, fill out a contact form or contact us today!

Posted in DWI
Hancock Law Firm discusses whether or not BAC tests can be inaccurate.

Driving While Impaired Defense: Can BAC Tests Be Inaccurate?

The outcomes of many DWI cases generally rest upon blood tests. Blood tests are the most adequate gauge for determining an individual’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that we currently have. BAC can be tested through a sample of a driver’s blood, breath, or urine.

In the state of North Carolina, an individual may be charged with a DWI if their blood alcohol content tests at 0.08% or higher. There are different levels of DWI, as well as factors that can be mitigating, aggravating, and grossly aggravating. Since blood tests and BAC levels are usually the only real objective form of evidence admitted in DWI trials, these cases usually hinge upon the validity of the results.  

Multiple factors such as gender, medication, and size are relevant to an individual’s BAC level. Despite the fact that these tests are generally looked at as an authority, they are not without risk of error.  

When your BAC is tested through an appropriate breath testing device, a result of 0.08% or more usually results in an immediate temporary suspension of your license. It is important to immediately contact a local, knowledgeable Criminal Defense Attorney to begin taking steps to restore your license.

When your BAC is tested through blood or through urine, delays of six weeks or more for the results to come in are not uncommon. If they come back as you having a BAC above the legal limit, a suspension of driving privileges is then sent to the North Carolina DMV. 

You will then receive a notice to make you aware that your license has been suspended. Once you have received notice from the DMV, it is very important to call a knowledgeable Criminal Defense Attorney who has experience with DWI cases in order to challenge the validity of the testing. 

In What Ways Can BAC Tests Be Invalid?

A BAC test can be invalidated in several ways. These include the following:

1. Issues with how blood was collected

Often one of the issues that can invalidate a BAC test can occur when a technician is collecting your blood. Since technicians who are responsible for prepping the site and drawing the blood are often only provided minimal training, they may make a mistake that can have a serious effect. If a technician takes too big or too small of a sample, fails to properly clean the site of injection, or does not prep the area with alcohol swabs, an error can occur.

2. Issues with the chain of custody

An extremely important component of any criminal case that involves tangible evidence is establishing a chain of custody at all times. The prosecution is responsible for proving the chain of custody. This is the case for a blood sample. The sample’s whereabouts must be known at all times from the beginning to the end of the process. Whenever the sample changes hands, it must be recorded in great detail, down to the time and date of the transfer. If not, it’s validity can reasonably be questioned. 

3. Issues with how the sample is stored

The storage of blood samples can affect the results. Blood samples are kept in vacuum-sealed tubes that contain specific chemicals to help prevent contamination and to preserve the authenticity of the sample that was taken.  Utilizing tubes past their date of expiration and other errors can impact the results and raise questions of their validity. 

4. Issues with hospital lab testing

When an individual has been involved in an accident and has their BAC tested at a hospital, the results can often be challenged due to the fact that the hospital labs use different techniques than forensic labs. For example, hospitals usually only test blood plasma, which is more concentrated than if you were to test the whole sample. Additionally, certain serious injuries can cause lactic acid. Unfortunately, hospital tests generally can’t differentiate lactic acid from ethyl alcohol. 

5. Issues with calibration

Similar to Breathalyzers, blood-testing machines also need to be calibrated in order to be sure that they are working properly. If the machines are not properly calibrated, it can lead to error. If this is the case, results may be excluded. 

Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Helps Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with a DWI

Proving BAC testing and results to be invalid can be the difference between a conviction, which will have a huge impact on your life or an acquittal. At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we work to get you the results you deserve. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Posted in DWI