State law has mandated seat belt use by NC drivers for more than 30 years. The seat belt law has changed a lot over time. As a result, not everyone is clear on who is covered, what is required, and what the penalties are for seatbelt violations.
1. Everyone in the car must buckle up!
G.S. 20-135.2A(a) requires that every occupant of a motor vehicle manufactured with seat belts must have a seatbelt fastened properly on a persons body when the vehicle is in forward motion on a street or highway.
A handful of exceptions apply to the following people and motor vehicles:
2. A motor vehicle may not be stopped for a back-seat passenger’s failure to buckle up!
An officer who has reason to believe that a driver or passenger does not have a seat belt properly fastened on his or her body may stop the car to investigate. A law enforcement officer who has reason to believe that there is a rear passenger without a seat belt may not pull the car over. That’s because G.S. 20-135.2A(d1) categorizes the failure to buckle up in the back seat as a secondary violation. A officer who has lawfully stopped a vehicle for another reason and learns in the process of a rear seat belt violation may, of course, give a ticket to the driver for this offense.
3. What is the penalty for front seatbelt violations?
The penalty for a seat belt violation has significantly increased since seat belt use was first mandated. Back in 1986, a violation of the seat belt law was punishable by a fine of $25. No court costs were assessed.
Today, the penalty for a front-seat occupant’s failure to wear a seat belt is $25.50 plus $154.50 in court costs. That is $180.
The costs of a rear seat violation are a lot simpler. That penalty is a flat $10 and no costs may be assessed.
If you need an attorney to help you with a Seat Belt Violation please contact Adkins Law today. Our attorney's are located in the Huntersville, Lake Norman area. We specialize in Traffic/ DUI. For all other information regarding a Seat Belt Violation click here.
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By Christopher Adkins
If you have been out drinking and are stopped by the police while driving home, what should you do? I will give you the most lawyerly answer possible: IT DEPENDS. I say that because it really does depend on a number of things. How much have you had to drink? Have you eaten anything recently? How long of a period of time were you drinking? How much do you weigh? These are all factors that will weigh into determining your BAC and whether you may legally drive.
If, for example, you are a 200 pound man who had two 5% ABV beers with dinner over a one hour period before driving, your probably okay to drive. A rough estimate of BAC in that situation would put you somewhere around a .03 to a .04. If you had, however four 5% beers over that same time period, you might be somewhere around .08 to .09 and it probably would be best not to drive. A woman who weighs 120 pounds, who consumes four 5% beers over the period of an hour might be as high as a .17 to .18. These aren't exact numbers, of course, as alcohol may affect people differently. It does give you an idea, however, of what kind of factors may play into determining your BAC.
In that scenario, if you were the 200 pound man who had two beers over the course of an hour, it might be wise to submit to an Alcosensor test and standard field sobriety tests. It may show the police that you are indeed sober and that you are able to drive a vehicle. If you were the 200 pound man who consumed four beers over the course of an hour, I would not submit to any testing whatsoever. In that situation, all you would be doing is providing the police with evidence to use against you in court.
You also have to consider the field sobriety tests that you are taking. Some people and attorneys might tell you that they are designed to trip you up. This isn't true. They are designed to allow the officer to make his best determination as to your BAC and ability to operate a motor vehicle. Determining BAC and whether someone is sober enough to drive is NOT an exact science. The police officers are doing the best they can with the training they are provided. This being said, the fact that this testing is NOT an exact science works to your advantage.
Many people don't realize the certain factors that may considerably throw off a field sobriety test. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (HGN), for example, may be thrown off entirely if the subject has sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI). A TBI may cause resting nystagmus and the artificial triggering of nystagmus at levels not found in average people. This may also be true if the subject is wearing contacts, has to take off his prescription glasses, or has had eye surgery. All these factors may produce false positives for HGN.
Both the Walk and Turn (WAT) and the One Leg Stand (OLS) may be thrown off if a subject has sustained previous injuries to their legs or lower body. A person who has a sprained ankle, for example, will not be able to walk or stand the same way as a person who has not. Also consider what type of footwear the subject is wearing and the surface in which the subject is taking the test. If a subject is trying to perform the WAT in high-heels on a slight incline, they probably aren't going to perform the test as well as a subject in sneakers on a flat surface.
All these factors must be considered before agreeing to take any type of field sobriety test. If you absolutely know that you've had too much to drink, I would not advise that any person submit to a field sobriety test. In these cases, the testing will only serve to be used as evidence against you in court.
One of the rarest, but most effective, tools a person may use when they are stopped by the police after they have been drinking is the pre-arrest test. As discussed in the pre-arrest test section, North Carolina allows a person to be transported, un-arrested, to provide a breath sample. As this is a rarely exercised right, many police officers are unsure of the procedures that they must follow when a person requests a pre-arrest test. If the police officer doesn't follow the procedures correctly, or unlawfully places you under arrest after you request a pre-arrest test, you may be able to win your case in court. Even once you are transported to a location to provide a breath sample, you may refuse to exercise the pre-arrest test. At this point, the officer will have to decide whether they want to arrest you and how to best proceed in collecting evidence against you. This will inevitably pose difficulties for the officer.
If you are arrested roadside and transported to provide a sample of your breath, always request that a witness come observe your test. You are provided this right and a witness may observe you give your breath sample if they are able to get to the testing site fast enough. In no case will the testing procedures be delayed more than 30 minutes when you request that a witness come observe your test. If, however, a witness arrives in time to see your test, and is denied the ability to come watch you blow, you may have established a defense as your rights may have been violated. Requesting a witness may also provide you with a little more time to try and sober up. If you are on the cusp of a .08, time is important.
If you suffer from gastroespphageal reflux disease (GERD), and this affected you ability to provide an adequate breath sample, you also may be able to establish a defense against your DWI charge. Burping before your breath test, or digestive conditions, such as GERD, may lead to the presence of residual mouth alcohol. Residual mouth alcohol occurs when alcohol you have digested is burped up into the mouth. Residual mouth alcohol will substantially alter the results of any breath test that you submit to. It is important to note if you suffer from digestive conditions or remember burping before providing a breath sample.
If you are arrested for DWI, you are processed through jail and released as fast as possible. This is because you have the statutory right to seek an independent chemical analysis upon your release. After being released, you may go to a hospital or other alcohol testing facility and pay to have your own independent alcohol test. You may use the results as evidence of your alleged BAC. If possible, do seek to go to a hospital to get an independent blood alcohol test immediately upon your release. Although this may only serve to confirm the results taken by the police, at least you have an independent test that may prove your BAC was lower than the state is alleging. Also be sure to note if you aren't released soon after your arrest and subsequent testing. This may set the grounds for a defense for a Knoll Motion. If you aren't released soon after your DWI arrest, you aren't able to seek your independent chemical analysis, and thus you were deprived of your statutory rights.
As with any legal issue, it is important to document exactly what happened to the best of your recollection as soon as you are able to. This will help strengthen your defense. Ultimately, it is your decision as to what is best for you if you have been stopped by the police and having been drinking. If you do drink before you drive, even the occasional one or two drinks at a social event, you need to be educated as to your rights so you are able to make an informed decision. I can't advise you directly whether you should take a specific test or not. I will say, based on over a thousand DWI investigations and hundreds of DWI arrests, it is usually best to avoid admitting to anything, avoid taking any tests, and avoid saying much at all. The best strategy is to be polite, respectful, and assertive as to your rights.
Contact Adkins Law if you need to speak to a DWI attorney / DUI attorney. A DWI lawyer from Adkins Law will be happy to give you a free DWI consultation. Adkins Law offers DWI representation in Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, Iredell County, Gaston County, Cabarrus County, and the Lake Norman area.
The North Carolina Supreme Court in State v. Knoll dismissed charges of impaired driving in three separate cases due to substantial statutory violations related to the setting of conditions of pretrial release that prejudiced the defendant’s ability to gain access to witnesses.
In Knoll, the defendant was stopped at 1:15pm and charged with driving while impaired. He was transported to Intake where he provided a chemical analysis of his breath at 2:31pm. His breath alcohol concentration was found to be .30. Upon appearing before a magistrate, he was given a secured bond of $300. Between 4:00pm and 5:00pm, the defendant made several requests to call his father, and was finally allowed to call his father at 5:00pm. After speaking with the defendant, the defendant’s father spoke with the magistrate and told him that he wanted to come pick the defendant up immediately. The magistrate informed the defendant’s father that he could not pick up the defendant until 11:00pm. At 11:00pm, the defendant’s father came to the jail to post bond. The defendant’s father stated that when he spoke with the defendant over the phone, he appeared oriented and coherent, and not noticeably impaired.
The Supreme Court found that the defendant’s confinement came during a crucial period in which he could have gathered evidence by: (1) having witnesses observe the defendant and form opinions of the defendant’s condition following the arrest, (2) lost the opportunity to secure independent proof of sobriety, and (3) lost the opportunity to secure a subsequent test for blood alcohol content. As such, the Supreme Court dismissed the driving while impaired charges against the defendant.
After Knoll, to establish a basis for dismissing impaired driving charges based upon driving with an alcohol concentration that equals or exceeds the per se limit of .08, a defendant must (1) demonstrate a substantial statutory violation of his or her right to pretrial release, and (2) demonstrate that the defendant was prejudiced by the violation. Successfully establishing a prejudice is a high hurdle to meet and Knoll typically only permits the dismissal of impaired driving charges in extraordinary cases.
If you would like to arrange a consultation with a DWI attorney, contact Adkins Law. Adkins Law serves Mecklenburg County and the Lake Norman area.