Can I Be Charged with a DWI If the Officer Didn’t See Me Driving?
Unfortunately, you can be charged with driving while impaired (DWI) in North Carolina whether or not a police officer saw driving down a street behind the wheel of a car. Our courts have ruled that circumstantial evidence that you were in “actual physical control” of a vehicle while drunk may be enough to convict you – but it depends on the situation.
Whether you’ve been accused of drunk driving or just caught next to a vehicle while tipsy, don’t wait – call a Charlotte DWI lawyer at Randall & Stump, PLLC. We know a conviction for this offense can wreak havoc on your reputation, your job, and your personal life. The sooner you begin fighting the charge, the better. Call (980) 237-4579, or reach out online to schedule a free and confidential case consultation.
North Carolina’s Definition of DWI
Driving while impaired in North Carolina includes being under the influence of a controlled substance, having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more, or having any amount of a Schedule I Controlled Substance in your body.
What is Actual Physical Control of a Motor Vehicle?
Per North Carolina law, the words “driver” and “operator” mean the same thing. To be operating a motor vehicle, you must have actual physical control of a vehicle that is in motion, or has the engine running. Proving at least one of these two elements is important as to whether you can be convicted for DWI.
For example, if you were trying to sleep off a buzz in your car, and you had the key in the ignition to run the heater, an officer could arrest you based on the fact that the engine was running. If you were found resting in your backseat while drunk, but when questioned, you mention to the officer that you brought the car to this stop by yourself, you could be arrested because you admitted you were in motion prior to parking.
However, there are a few similar scenarios with different outcomes. If the vehicle is unable to move, the officer will have a harder time proving you violated the law.
If you leave your vehicle somewhere, and are walking home with a BAC over 0.08 percent, unless the police saw you move the car, they would have to prove you didn’t consume alcohol after parking, since it’s not illegal to own a car, drink, and walk. Since chemical tests can prove alcohol is in your system, it may help the prosecution’s case if you lie and say you haven’t had any drinks, so it’s in your best interests to politely refuse questions and request legal counsel.
How Does Probable Cause Relate to NC DWI Cases?
The state has ruled that your reasons for taking the wheel aren’t important – you can be charged with impaired driving all the same. A law enforcement officer may be able to form probable cause to arrest you after observing things such as:
- Seeing an open container of alcohol in the passenger area
- Smelling alcohol on the defendant
- Seeing the defendant’s bloodshot eyes
- Hearing slurred speech
- Having the defendant admit to drinking alcohol
- Having the defendant take standardized field sobriety tests, which they fail
Talk to a Dedicated Charlotte DWI Lawyer
You should not be found guilty just because you had a few drinks and entered your vehicle. But a driving while impaired charge is a big deal. If you don’t take care of it, it can come back to haunt you. If a police officer didn’t see you driving, but you were still charged with DWI, don’t laugh it off. You are up against a tough criminal justice system, and you need an experienced Charlotte criminal defense attorney from Randall & Stump, PLLC to fight back.