North Carolina DUI FAQs

What is the Legal Alcohol Limit in North Carolina?

The legal limit for alcohol in the state of North Carolina is .08 or higher. Now that’s kind of a weird way of saying it. The limit itself is actually .07. If you blow through one of the different breath testing devices or if you have a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, you’re going to be charged with driving while impaired. It’s important to understand that you actually can be charged with driving while impaired with a number under .08. We see cases where there’s a .07 or .06. North Carolina is a .08 standard but they’re also other ways to convict you with driving while impaired other than just the alcohol and other than just the readings.

How Can I Get a DUI Without the Presence of Alcohol?

You may be charged with driving while impaired in North Carolina and not have any alcohol in your system. The North Carolina General Assembly amended the law a few years back and allowed for three different ways, we call a trifurcated system, in order to convict the driver while impaired.

The first one that most people think of is when you blow a .08 or higher. You can also be charged with driving while impaired if you’re subject to some impairing substance. Even if it’s a lawfully prescribed substance specifically schedule 1 drugs. Schedule 1 drugs is kind of a complicated way of saying they’re a list of medications and illegal drugs that are cited in North Carolina general statutes. If you have either any of those in your system or what we call “metabolites” of those in your system you can also be charged and convicted of driving while impaired.

The third way, which is more of a catch all, is what we call the appreciable impairment theory. This is where there doesn’t need to be any amount of alcohol or any reading for types of drugs or medications but the officer’s opinion could be that you had consumed some impairing substance. To some extent you were appreciable impaired. That’s complicated and the purpose of these videos is for you to get a big ticket type perspective of things. I encourage to you keep reading and keep watching the videos as you go down because we’ll go more and more specific as time goes on.


Within the last few years North Carolina has adopted another major piece of machinery for testing alcohol on someone’s breath. Traditionally we have used the Intoxylizer 5000 machine made by a company called CMI. The ECIR2 is one of the newer technologies for use in North Carolina. EC stands for electro chemical and IR stand for Infra Red.

It’s pretty complicated science and I encourage you to come in and talk to me about facts of your individual case. Your body can react differently on these machines. There are defenses to DWI cases on all the machinery and I encourage you to recognize the fact that just because you were charged with driving while impaired, and they have a reading, doesn’t necessary mean that it is admissible in court.

Refusal to Blow

The machinery that we use in North Carolina on the side of the road is actually called an AlcoSensor. It’s not the same as the good old fashioned Breathalyzer. It’s not the same as the Intoxilyzer. You are not required to submit to the road side test. There will not be a suspension of your driver’s licenses if you refuse on the side road.

The fact that you refused to give the sample on the side of the road maybe used against you in determining whether or not there’s enough evidence to arrest you. You may refuse an AlcoSensor as you’re not required to give that evidence against yourself. Even If you do blow in the AlcoSensor, that particular reading and numerical value is not admissible in court. Only the fact that you had a positive or negative reading for alcohol is admissible in court.

Reasonable Suspicion & Probable Cause in NC

The law in North Carolina regarding reasonable suspicion and probable cause is very complicated and ever changing. I encourage you to review the materials on our web page and to read specifically some of the articles I’ve written about reasonable suspicion and probable cause. The law as it is now in this video that’s being recorded maybe different in the future. It will give you a good starting point, a jumping off point if you would, and then we’ll be able to sit down and go more specifically over the facts of your case and the status of the law as it is now in this state.

Do I Need to be Read my Miranda Rights?

Most people of heard what we call Miranda rights. You have a right to remain silent. You have a right to have an attorney present. Anything you say will be used against you in a court of law. Most people know those because we see them on TV programs. We’ve see them on movies and so in the United States we have a pretty good familiarity with the constitutional rights to remain silent.

It’s important to realize though that just because you were not read Miranda rights doesn’t necessarily mean the case get’s dismissed against you. It is a very complicated legal issue. It’s something that is very fact specific pertaining to the circumstances of the arrest and processing of your case. I encourage you to sit down with us and talk about these different things. Sometimes the fare to read your Miranda rights does have a positive consequence and sometimes it doesn’t.

What Should I Expect When I Go to Court

Going to court is sometimes a disturbing process for people because they’re unfamiliar with their circumstances and they’ve seen a lot on TV. Of course they also have their friends and family telling them how things work. The truth of the matter is that we want to first sit down with you and explain how the calendar call works and how you answer up when they call the calendar. It’s just like roll call in high school.

I want to explain to you who the different parties are and in so doing hopefully you’ll have a better feel for the courthouse and the court system. Most cases of North Carolina are continued or set off on several different occasions. You may have to come to court two, three, and sometimes even four times. As you become more familiar with the court system you’ll have a better comfort level. Remember that an important part of this case in our representation is to make you comfortable as much as possible.

Right to Discovery

In preparing your DWI defense it’s important to obtain some basic materials associated with your arrest and processing for driving while impaired. I like to see a video of the officer both on the scene, in the jail, and maybe in the room where you blew on the machine. The “breathalyzer room” is what some people call that. I’ll like to review the alcohol influence report. I like to see the charging officer’s affidavit, the chemical analyst affidavit, handwritten notes, an arrest report, a driving record, and some of the other associated materials that you got when you were charged with driving while impaired. Preparation is key to a good DWI defense.