To be considered too impaired to drive safely in the state of North Carolina the state must show that a driver’s Blood Alcohol Content was 0.08% or higher at the time of their arrest. The problem here is that the amount of alcohol one person has to drink to reach this BAC varies widely due to factors like body weight, whether or not they had food in their stomach, and a host of other factors that make proving that someone was impaired difficult for any prosecution.
The state of North Carolina has gotten around this with a statute that sets the level of impairment at 0.08% by measuring your Blood Alcohol Content no matter how many drinks you’ve had and is the standard piece of evidence that will be used against you if you are charged with a DWI.
In North Carolina the way the state goes about determining if you have reached a level of impairment is by having you blow into a breathalyzer machine called and Intoxilyzer 5000 or an Intox EC/IR II. While there are a lot of different breathalyzer machines out there on the market only the Intoxilyzer 5000 and Intox EC/IR II have been approved for use by law enforcement by North Carolina. No other machine can be used.
It is important to understand how these machines work. When someone has consumed ethanol, which is the type of alcohol common to the kind found in beer, wine, or liquor, it enters their blood and that blood passes through their lungs every time they breathe. Some of this blood is collected inside what are called alveoli, which are small sacks in their lungs that help move oxygen and carbon dioxide between the lungs and the bloodstream. If there is alcohol present in the blood it will be collected in these alveoli.
When an office orders you to breathe into a breathalyzer machine he is measuring the amount of alcohol in your “alveoli air” that is released every time you exhale. He will use this to determine whether or not a driver has reached the point of alcohol consumption that would deem them unable to properly operate their vehicle.
Like I mentioned before, it is important that you do not provide the officer who pulled you over during your DWI any chance to gather evidence to establish “probable cause” for your arrest, whether it is evidence gained from a field sobriety test or by breathing into a breathalyzer. You have a right to refuse any test by the rights you are provided as a citizen of North Carolina and the United States of America, but it should be understood that there are still risks to saying no to any of these tests.