What Should I do if I'm Stopped for a DWI?

When it comes to DWIs, Wake County has some of the strictest policies in the state, and the holiday season is the time when we see the most arrests.  So, what should you do if you’re stopped for a DWI?  Based on our experience in defending Wake County DWI charges, we’ve comprised this list of tips:

Tip #1 – Don’t drink & drive!

While this is the most obvious of all the tips, it’s by far the most important.  A large number of our DWI clients consumed just 2 or 3 drinks and truly believed they were sober enough to drive.  Regardless of how much you’ve had to drink, the only definitive way to avoid a DWI charge is to not drive at all.  Take our advice and call a taxi.

Tip #2 – Keep your license & registration in an easily accessible place

When you get stopped by a police officer, one of the first things he or she will ask for is your license and registration.  If you’re fumbling around trying to find them or hand the officer the wrong documents by mistake, this will be taken as a possible indicator of impairment.  If possible, have your license and registration ready to give the officer by the time he approaches your window.

Tip #3 – Politely refuse to perform the roadside sobriety tests

If the officer believes you’ve been drinking, there are 2 types of tests you will likely be asked to perform on the side of the road.  The first type are called fieldside sobriety tests, which include things like walking in a straight line, standing on one leg, and checking your eyes for horizontal gaze nystagmus.  The second type of test is a portable breath test, which you must blow in to.  Some officers will try to convince you these tests are required, but the truth is, they are completely optional and will almost never help you.  Unless you’ve consumed absolutely no alcohol in the past 24 hours, we strongly recommend that you politely refuse to perform either of these 2 types of tests.  Although you may still be arrested, without the evidence from the roadside sobriety tests, it will be much more difficult for the police to make a case against you.

Tip #4 – The Breathalyzer

Once you’re arrested for a DWI, you’ll be taken to the police station or mobile police unit and asked to take another breath test on the Breathalyzer machine.  Up until this point, we’ve advised you to politely refuse to perform any sobriety tests, but whether you should refuse to blow into the Breathalyzer is a much more complicated issue.  The Breathalyzer test results will be the strongest piece of evidence the police have of your guilt.  However, the consequences of refusing the Breathalyzer are harsh.  For one, you will automatically lose your license for a year and won’t even be eligible for a limited driving privilege for at least 6 months.  Furthermore, even if you refuse the breath test, the police could still get a warrant to have your blood drawn for testing.

Therefore, unless you’ve had a prior DWI conviction in the last 7 years, which puts you at significant risk of jail time, you should probably take the Breathalyzer test.     

Tip #5 – Always call a witness

Before taking the Breathalyzer test, the police will advise you of your right to have a witness present to observe the testing as long as the witness can arrive within 30 minutes.  Therefore, if you choose to call a witness, they must delay the test for 30 minutes to allow the person time to arrive.  Always call a witness, even if he or she can’t make it there on time!  The required 30 minute delay will only work to your advantage, as your breath/blood alcohol concentration will almost always lower during this time.  Furthermore, if the witness does arrive during the 30 minute window, but is denied access to observing the Breathalyzer test, this could be grounds for a dismissal of your case.

Tip #6 – You have the right to remain silent, so use it!

From the time you’re stopped to the time you’re booked, the police will be asking you questions about your drinking.  Anything you say to them can and will be used against you, so we do not recommend you answering any questions or volunteering any information.  You should remain polite and respectful throughout the entire process, but you always have the right to remain silent, so use it!

Tip #7 – Call The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel as soon as you're released

During a free consultation, you’ll receive specific advice related to the facts of your particular case.  We can also help start the process of getting you back on the road.

If you’ve been charged with a DWI in Wake County, call The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel at (919) 585-1486 for a free consultation with one of our experienced Raleigh DWI lawyers. 


Wiley Nickel

Wiley Nickel lives and works in Cary, North Carolina. In 1998, he graduated from Tulane University with a major in Political Science and a minor in History. After college Wiley went to work for Al Gore and travelled with the Vice President as part of his national advance staff. Following the Gore campaign he earned his law degree from the Pepperdine University School of Law in 2005. While in law school Wiley worked as a law clerk in the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office where he gained valuable criminal trial experience before taking and passing the California bar exam. His first job out of law school was for the Merced County District Attorney’s Office where he worked as a Deputy District Attorney with a focus on prosecuting DWI offenders. Wiley later joined the Law Offices of Joseph Uremovic where he focused on civil litigation and family law. When the opportunity came to join the Obama campaign in 2008 Wiley jumped at the chance. He spent three years travelling with President Obama as a member of his national advance team. In 2011 Wiley left his work for the White House to return to the practice of law. Wiley devotes the majority of his practice to the areas of criminal law, family law, traffic tickets and DMV issues. The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel was started with the goal of providing the best representation possible for all of his clients. Experienced, Compassionate, Aggressive Criminal Defense While defense attorney Wiley Nickel works as the primary attorney for all of his cases, he does have an associate attorney, a team of investigators, forensic consultants, and support staff to call on to help achieve the best possible result in every case. He limits his case load so that he can focus on providing the best possible legal defense to all of his clients. Every case is a top priority and the goal is to have your case dismissed with a focus on being able to expunge your charges at the end of the process. When he is not working, Wiley is an avid family man, distance runner and golfer. He loves North Carolina college sports and is hoping this is the year for Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Wiley is licensed to practice law in North Carolina and California.