You will be told about the charges against you by a Magistrate. A Magistrate in North Carolina is not a judge. Rather, a Magistrate is a “judicial officer” of the District Court – North Carolina’s lowest court. A Magistrate’s role is to provide an independent, unbiased review of the police officer’s charges.
In reality, a Magistrate rarely will second guess the officer’s allegations against you. On those rare occasions when a Magistrate does reject the officer’s claim that you were driving drunk, no charges will be filed against you.
But in most cases, the Magistrate will agree with the police officer, and DWI charges will be filed against you.
In addition to being charged with the crime of DWI, your license will usually be suspended for at least 30 days.
This is called a “Civil Revocation.” Later in this booklet I will explain how the Civil Revocation procedure work. I’ll also explain how you or your attorney can get your driving privileges back.
Finally, if the Magistrate has approved the charges against you, the Magistrate will also set the conditions for your release from custody. At the time of your arrest – when you were handcuffed and placed in the police officer’s car – you were placed into custody. You have remained in custody throughout the breathalyzer and booking process.
In most cases, the Magistrate will release you if you sign a document in which you make a “written promise to appear” at court.
In some cases, the Magistrate will decide to hold you in custody until you pay a bond. The bond guarantees that you will show up in court, or else you will lose your money.
If the Magistrate sets a bond, you may have to spend a night, few days, or even weeks in jail until you can either pay the bond, or you or your lawyer can convince a Judge to lower the bond.