Farrell v. Thomas, 247 N.C. App. 64 (Apr. 19, 2016)

(1) The DMV’s findings support its conclusion that the officer had reasonable grounds to believe that Farrell was driving while impaired. During a traffic stop Farrell refused the officer’s request to take a breath test after being informed of his implied consent rights and the consequences of refusing to comply. Officers obtained his blood sample, revealing a blood alcohol level of .18. Because Farrell refused to submit to a breath test upon request, the DMV revoked his driving privileges. The Court of Appeals found that “DMV’s findings readily support its conclusion.” Among other things, Farrell had glassy, bloodshot eyes and slightly slurred speech; during the stop Farrell used enough mouthwash to create a strong odor detectable by the officer from outside car; and Farrell lied to the officer about using the mouthwash. The court held: “From these facts, a reasonable officer could conclude that Farrell was impaired and had attempted to conceal the alcohol on his breath by using mouthwash and then lying about having done so.” (2) Over a dissent, the court rejected Farrell’s argument that the State’s dismissal of his DWI charge barred the DMV from pursuing a drivers license revocation under the implied consent laws. This dismissal may have been based on a Fourth Amendment issue. The majority determined that even if Farrell’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated, the exclusionary rule would not apply to the DMV hearing. The dissent argued that the exclusionary rule should apply. A third judge wrote separately, finding that it was not necessary to reach the exclusionary rule issue.