Driving While Impaired FAQ's

What is the difference between DUI and DWI?

The terms "DWI" (Driving While Impaired) and "DUI" (Driving Under the Influence) refer to the same offense. The laws and the justice system in North Carolina generally call it "Driving While Impaired."

How do I avoid getting a DWI?

Do not drink or take medications that hinder your faculties before you drive. You are driving a car or operating a motor vehicle if you are in the driver's seat of a vehicle whose engine is running. If you have had too much to drink, have a sober friend drive you home or call a taxi cab.

What should I do when I see the blue lights?

You should signal to notify the officer that you are cooperating, pull over and stop the car safely on the side of the road. Do not keep driving or stop in the middle of the road. This is the vehicle-in-motion part of the investigation and the officer is already collecting information.

What are the best practices for interacting with a law enforcement officer?

If you have been stopped, be still and keep your hands on the wheel as the officer approaches the car. If you need to reach for a document, wait till you can tell the officer what you are reaching for. Of course, having your seatbelt on, keeping kids buckled in car seats when necessary, maintaining updated registration, and using functional headlights and tail lights go a great way in showing the officer that you are a law-abiding citizen.

What should I do if I am arrested?

Remain polite and cooperative. This generally means being quiet. You are not required to answer any questions posed by the officer. You should try to remain calm rather that getting upset or angry.
Nothing you can say or do at that point change the officer's mind or your circumstances.

Do I have to open the window?

You should open the window enough to be able to communicate with the officer and hand him the documents he asks for. You do not have to roll the window all the way down.

Do I have to answer officer questions?

One of the responsibilities of having a driving privilege in North Carolina is that you must give a law enforcement officer the documents he asks for and identify yourself. Beyond that, you must obey any commands the officer gives, but you are not required to answer questions. It is important to know the difference between a command and a question. A command usually requires some physical action while question generally requires a verbal response. You should be respectful but assertive when necessary. Being rude will upset the officer. If you choose not to answer a question, you may say something like, "Respectfully, Officer, I decline to answer your question." Remember that a very helpful non-statutory mitigating factor for sentencing is that you were "polite and cooperative."

I can refuse to blow, right?

The short answer is yes. However, you should know the different circumstances that surround "blowing" and what penalties are associated with not blowing.
Officers will often have you blow into a small machine (which they may call an instrument) at the time of the traffic stop. This is called a Portable Breath Test or a PBT and is primarily used to determine the presence of alcohol. Results from this test are not used in court proceedings but must be calibrated according DHHS standards. You may refuse a PBT with no consequences. In fact, you may refuse all of the Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) without penalty.
However, if you are arrested and taken to a police station or sheriff's department, things are a little different. You may refuse to "blow" in this more established machine but a refusal at this point will suspend your license for 1 year. It also has implications when trying to get a Limited Driving Privilege (LDP).
You may have someone as a witness to the breath test at the facility. They usually have 30 minutes to arrive. They should inform a magistrate or other manager that they have arrived so they can be directed to the room where you are. Just make sure the witness is not impaired or things could turn out badly for them.
These tests do require quite a bit of blowing to get a reading. Unfortunately, some officers may mark that you refused if they are unable to get a reading.

Does the officer have to read my Miranda rights?

Miranda rights are a big deal. In short, the following is what officers usually say before questioning someone in custody.
• You have the right to remain silent.
• If you do say anything, it can be used against you in a court of law.
• You have the right to have a lawyer present during any questioning.
• If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you if you so desire.
However, just because they don't tell you this does not mean you can just get away. Your attorney can explain the implications of the Miranda warning and address your concerns if you were not instructed properly. Under normal circumstances, prosecutors cannot use statements of a defendant in a trial if they were in custody and not informed of the Miranda rights.

Did the officer treat me right?

That is something we will dig into and find out. See our pages about Challenging Blood and Breath Test Results and Constitutional Challenges.

Can I drive after I get a DWI?

The correct answer is "it depends." Generally after 30 days, you can pay the $100 civil revocation fee and get your license back from the clerk. Ask your attorney about securing a Limited Driving Privilege when your license is suspended.

What if I have had a DWI before?

Caulder and Valentine will make sure that you get the best result, no matter if you have weathered several these cases before or if it's the very first time.

Do I have to go to jail?

Some DWI convictions have mandatory jail time. Under some circumstances community service or in-patient treatment programs may reduce jail time. When we represent you, we seek to get the best result for your situation.

Do I have to be driving a car to get a DWI?

No. You can be charged with DWI while operating any motorized vehicle or even a bicycle. Boating while impaired is under a different statute (NCGS § 75A-10) but still a crime. However, you cannot be charged with DWI while riding a horse.


Shelby Office
303 West Marion Street
Shelby, NC 28150
704.754.8401 (fax)
Gastonia Office
316 S Chester St
Gastonia, NC 28052
704.754.8401 (fax)