DWI Checkpoints in Wilmington, NC: Questions & Answers

Written by Thom Goolsby


DWI checkpoints in Wilmington, NC are a regular occurrence. It is important to know the basics about sobriety checkpoints in North Carolina.

You should also clearly understand your rights during a checkpoint.

If you are arrested during a DWI checkpoint, contact an experienced Wilmington DWI/DUI lawyer at Goolsby Law Firm as soon as possible. Attorney Thom Goolsby will thoroughly evaluate the checkpoint to determine its legality. If your arrest was based on an improper checkpoint, improper procedure or faulty DWI testing, these issues could lead to a dismissal of some or all of the charges filed against you.

Attorney Goolsby is in court most days, but call or text (910) 763-3339 or contact us online. He’ll be in touch as soon as possible to set up a free initial consultation.

DWI Checkpoints in Wilmington, NC: FAQ’s

Are DWI Checkpoints Legal?

Yes, sobriety checkpoints are legal in North Carolina. The police can briefly stop a motorist and look for clues of intoxication under North Carolina General Statute §20-16.3A. This is an exception to the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution requiring police to have probable cause to detain someone.

How Do DWI Checkpoints Work?

All sobriety checkpoints must adhere to certain federal and state guidelines. Law enforcement must have a written plan for a sobriety checkpoint. They must publish the existence of the checkpoint. All checkpoint must be clearly visible to approaching drivers using signs, lights, and visible police vehicles. North Carolina law requires that at least one law enforcement vehicle with its blue light be operating during the checkpoint.

What Are the Police Looking For?

Checkpoints are specifically used to look for impairment due to drugs or alcohol. However, you can be ticketed for secondary offenses, such as driving without a seatbelt. The police may not look for non-vehicle offenses. Although, if another crime is committed in plain sight, an officer will act.

Can I Avoid a DWI Checkpoint?

Technically and if possible, you can make a legal turn before the checkpoint in order to avoid it. However, North Carolina law does not offer specific protections for motorists who avoid a checkpoint. The police may and probably will try to stop you if it appears you avoided a checkpoint.

Do I Have to Stop at a DWI Checkpoint?

If an officer tells you to stop at a checkpoint, you should. If you are approaching a checkpoint, you can make a turn and go a different route. However, North Carolina has a chase policy, which allows the police to pursue and stop you if it appears you are evading the checkpoint. When you get to the checkpoint, you may be waived through or signaled to stop. You must stop if told or signaled to do so.

Who Gets Stopped at DWI Checkpoints?

The police must have a predetermined formula for who they stop. For example, every vehicle may be stopped or officers may stop every third vehicle. Officers CANNOT conduct random stops.

Do I Have to Talk to Officers at a DWI Checkpoint?

You do not have to answer an officer’s questions during a DWI checkpoint in Wilmington, NC. You will be asked for your driver’s license, registration, and insurance. You should provide these. If you refuse, you may be ticketed for driving without a license and/or driving without registration or insurance.

Do I Have to Submit to a Field Sobriety Test?

No. You never have to submit to any field sobriety tests. These include the one-leg stand, the walk-and-turn test, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (eye test), saying the alphabet backward or any other psycho-motor test.

Will an Officer Ask Me to Blow into a Breathalyzer?

During the brief interaction at a checkpoint, if the officer notices any signs of intoxication, they may ask you to blow into a small portable breath test (PBT). You have the right to say no, but such action may be used against you at trial.

Do I Have to Get Out of the Car?

If an officer asks you to get out of the vehicle, you should comply for your own safety. It is not the time to argue. Note: you do not have to answer the officer’s questions, submit to any field sobriety tests or blow into a portable breath test.

Can the Police Search my Car?

No, the police do not have a warrant to search your vehicle at a DWI checkpoint. They either need your permission to do so or some fact must give them probable cause to arrest you and then search the car. Do NOT give the police permission to search your vehicle.

Can I Be Arrested at a DWI Checkpoint?

Most drivers spend only a couple of minutes at a checkpoint. However, yes, a checkpoint can result in an arrest, if an officer has probable cause to believe you are impaired or have committed another crime(s).

Contact a DWI Checkpoint Lawyer in Wilmington, NC

If you were arrested for DWI or any criminal offense at a sobriety checkpoint, contact Goolsby Law Firm at (910) 763-3339. An experienced and aggressive Wilmington criminal defense attorney is ready to protect your rights and pursue the best possible outcome.

We’re available 24/7. You also can use the online form, call (910) 763-3339, or send a text at (910) 262-7401 to request a free initial consultation.

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    212 Walnut St. Suite 100
    Wilmington, North Carolina 28401

    Like any quality criminal defense attorney, Thom Goolsby may be in court when you first call, but leave a voice mail or send a text. We’ll get with you as soon as possible, so we can go over what happened, evaluate the case, and explain what comes next.