If you’re questioned about driving under the influence or drunk driving by a police officer, you’re likely to face a breathalyzer or other chemically-based test. Refusing a breathalyzer test demanded by a police officer will prompt an immediate loss of your driving privileges in every state.
In Alaska and Maine, refusing to take a breathalyzer includes automatic jail time.
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Deciding to take the breathalyzer in such a situation may not protect all your rights, but refusing to do so can have serious repercussions. You will certainly face a court of law. If you’re ultimately convicted of driving while impaired (also known as DWI) or driving under the influence (also called DUI), the court will mandate the maximum penalty for refusal to take breathalyzer, urine, or blood tests.
If you’re faced with a possible DUI/DWI, discuss your circumstances with a legal advisor. According to author Michael Smith in “Naked America” (2008), refusing to accept a field sobriety test can be more serious than the original DUI/DWI accusation. An attorney can help minimize the potential penalties and charges related to a DUI/DWI conviction.
What is implied driver consent and implied driver refusal?
When a driver is suspected of driving under the influence or driving while impaired, the investigating police officer seeks to determine the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). A higher blood alcohol level may mean a harsher sentence if the driver is convicted. The breathalyzer or other test helps to determine the most accurate BAC level of the driver in real time.
The suspected drunk or chemically-impaired driver may be taken to the nearest police station or hospital to obtain a breathalyzer or other indicated medical tests. The breathalyzer is considered a non-invasive and safe test. However, it is the driver’s right to refuse to submit to the test.
Refusing to take the breathalyzer at the request of the investigating officer can mean automatic suspension of the driver’s license for one year or more in many states. Suspension of the driver license occurs due to implied consent.
According to most states’ driver laws, the driver license holder gives consent to requests for breath, urine, or blood tests in order to determine blood alcohol level when the police officer presents reasonable grounds for the request.
Conversely, implied refusal of the driver relates to his inability to blow into the breathalyzer tube or an unconscious condition. Sometimes, the breathalyzer/preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) may not function. The arresting police officer may charge the driver with implied refusal in that case! If the driver refuses the initial PAS but allows chemical testing at a police station or medical facility, he should not be legally accused of implied refusal.
The decision to refuse the investigating officer’s request to take a breathalyzer can have highly negative results.
The resulting conviction, if determined, may lead to higher fines and harsher sentencing. When the driver refuses the breathalyzer or other test, the court may assume the driver’s BAC was at least 0.16% or greater. Unfortunately, refusing to take the breathalyzer may be seen as proof of guilt in some cases.
Why are some drivers concerned about taking the breathalyzer test?
Some drivers may have a concern of potential abuse by the police officer in the administration of the breathalyzer test. For that reason, most states support the right of the driver to request a certain hospital or medical facility for the administration of the breathalyzer or other chemical test.
A DUI arrest may be deemed as unlawful if a court finds that the arresting officer didn’t have adequate reason to initially question the driver. If the arresting police officer didn’t inform the driver about the effects of refusing the breathalyzer test, the driver can challenge the charges in a court of law. When the driver refuses the breathalyzer, the arresting officer must clearly provide an explanation of the next steps.
What else can occur when a driver refuses to take a breathalyzer test?
Refusing to accept sobriety tests may result in additional driver license issues, depending on the state in which the driver refuses to take the breathalyzer or other test.
Accused drivers should seek legal counsel to discuss the protection of legal rights.
In some cases, the timely request for an administrative hearing can help to lessen the serious consequences of initially refusing the breathalyzer test, according to attorneys Kapsack & Blair, LLC in California.
If the driver is convicted, he may face large fines, a jail sentence, driver education courses, and community service.
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