Consequences of Refusing a Breathalyzer Test

The consequences of refusing a breathalyzer test include the revocation of your driving privileges. If convicted of a DUI, expect possible fines, jail time, and car insurance rates 41% higher on average. If you refuse a breathalyzer test, the best thing you can do is talk to a lawyer to try to lessen the severity of the charges.

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Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State University as well as technical and professional communication at East Carolina University. Zaneta has prepared technical p...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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UPDATED: Jan 24, 2021

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Here's what you need to know...

  • A higher blood alcohol level may mean a harsher sentence if the driver is convicted
  • The consequences of refusing a breathalyzer test at the investigating officer’s request can have highly negative results
  • When the driver refuses the breathalyzer, the arresting officer must clearly provide an explanation of the next steps
  • Accused drivers should seek legal counsel to discuss the protection of legal rights
  • Refusing to take a breathalyzer test could also result in higher rates on your insurance

Refusing a breathalyzer at a party is not nearly as serious as the consequences of refusing a breathalyzer test when driving drunk. 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 and make it hard to find cheap car insurance.

In Alaska and Maine, refusing to take a breathalyzer includes automatic jail time.

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. Read on to learn more.

Think about lowering your car insurance rates after refusing breathalzyer tests or being charged with a DUI by shopping around — enter your ZIP code to get started today.

Refusing to Take a Breathalyzer Test: What happens?

Does refusing a breathalyzer help? 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.

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. Read on to learn about the process of refusing a test.

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. But, is it a good idea to refuse a breathalyzer?

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. It is hard to find cheap car insurance rates after a suspended license, so avoiding license suspension will help your case afterwards.

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According to FindLaw, in 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 percent or greater. Unfortunately, refusing to take the breathalyzer may be seen as proof of guilt in some cases.

So before you say, “I refuse a breathalyzer test,” first consider the consequences of refusing breathalzyer tests.

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What are the BAC levels and penalties by state?

If an officer can’t get a driver to take a breathalyzer test, than a driver may automatically be penalized with the highest penalty in the state. Take a look at the list below to see what the BAC levels are in your state.

BAC Level Limits and Penalties by State
StatesBAC LimitHigh BAC LimitCriminal Status by OffenseFormal Name for OffenseLook Back Period/Washout Period
Alabama0.080.151st-3rd misdemeanors, 4th+ in 5 years Class C felonyDriving Under the Influence (DUI)5 years
Alaska0.08NA1st-2nd Class A misdemeanors, 3rd+ in 10 years class C felonyDriving Under the Influence (DUI) / Operating Under the Influence (OUI)15 years
Arizona0.080.15-0.2; 0.2+1st-2nd Class 1 misdemeanor, 3rd+ Class 4 felonyDriving Under the Influence (DUI)7 years
Arkansas0.08NA4th+ within 5 years is a felony (otherwise unclassified)Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)5 years
California0.080.15-0.2; 0.2+Non-injury DUIs are misdemeanors. 4th+ felony if offender sentenced to incarceration in state prisonDriving Under the Influence (DUI)10 years
Colorado0.05 - DWAI, 0.08 - DUI0.15-0.2; 0.2+1st-3rd misdemeanors, 4th+ Class 4 felonyDriving Under the Influence (DUI)no official period
Connecticut0.08NA1st misdemeanor, 2+ within 10 years are feloniesDriving Under the Influence (DUI)10 years
Delaware0.080.15-0.2; 0.2+1st-2nd unclassified misdemeanors, 3rd Class G felony, 4th-5th Class E felonies, 6th Class D felony, 7th Class C felonyDriving Under the Influence (DUI)10 years for 2nd offense, unlimited/lifetime for 3rd+
Florida0.080.151st-2nd misdemeanors, 3rd+ within 10 years is 3rd degree felonyDriving Under the Influence (DUI)10 years for 3rd offense, unlimited/lifetime for 4th+
Georgia0.080.151st-2nd misdemeanors, 3rd high and aggravated misdemeanor, 4th+ felonyDriving Under the Influence (DUI)10 years
Hawaii0.08NA1st-3rd petty misdemeanors, 4th+ Class C felonyDriving Under the Influence (DUI)/ Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of an Intoxicant (OVUII)5 years
Idaho0.080.21st-2nd misdemeanors, 2nd or subsequent with BAC > 0.20 felony, 3rd+ felony. DUI with bodily harm or disfigurement is felonyDriving Under the Influence (DUI)10 years for DUI, 5 years for HBAC
Illinois0.080.161st-2nd Class A misdemeaor, 3rd-4th Class 2 felony, 5th Class 1 felony, 6th+ Class X felonyDriving Under the Influence (DUI)10 years
Indiana0.080.151st Class C misdemeanor, 1st high BAC Class A misdemeanor; subsequent convictions within 5 years, Class D felonyOperating While Intoxicated (OWI)5 years
Iowa0.080.151st serious misdemeanor, 2nd aggravated misdemeanor, 3rd+ Class D felonyOperating While Intoxicated (OWI)12 years
Kansas0.080.151st Class B non-person misdemeanor, 2nd Class A non-person misdemeanor, 3rd+ non-person felonyDriving Under the Influence (DUI)10 years
Kentucky0.080.151st Class B misdemeanor, 2nd-3rd within 5 years, Class A misdemeanors, 4th+ Class D felonyDriving Under the Influence (DUI)10 years
Louisiana0.080.15; 0.21st-2nd not classified, 3rd either misdemeanor or felony, 4th felonyDriving Under the Influence (DUI)10 years
Maine0.080.151st-2nd Class D crime, 3rd+ within 10 years Class C crimesOperating Under the Influence (OUI)10 years
Maryland0.080.15All misdemeanorsDriving Under the Influence (DUI)5 years
Massachusetts0.080.21st-2nd unclassified, 3rd+ feloniesOperating Under the Influence (OUI)Unlimited/lifetime
Michigan0.080.171st-2nd unclassified, 3rd+ feloniesOperating While Intoxicated (OWI)7 years for 2nd offense, unlimited/lifetime for 3rd+
Minnesota0.080.164th degree offense w/no aggravating factors is misdemeanor; 3rd degree offense w/one aggravating factor is gross misdemeanor; 2nd degree offense w/ two aggravating factors is gross misdemeanor; 1st degree offense w/ 3+ aggravating factors is felony (Aggravating Factors: 1) any prior drunken driving offense 2) driving with BAC > 0.19 3) driving w/passenger <16 yo if passenger is more than 36 months younger than driverDriving While Impaired (DWI)10 years
Mississippi0.08NA1st-2nd misdemeanors, 3rd+ felonies with 4th automatic felony carrying 2-10 years in prisonDriving Under the Influence (DUI)5 years
Missouri0.080.15; 0.21st intoxication offense Class B misdemeanor, first per se offense Class C misdemeanor, 2nd Class A misdemeanors, 3rd Class D felony, 4th+ Class C felonyDriving While Intoxicated (DWI)5 years
Montana0.080.161st-3rd misdemeanors, 4th+ feloniesDriving Under the Influence (DUI)10 years for 2nd offense, unlimited/lifetime for 3rd+
Nebraska0.080.151st-3rd w/in 15 years Class W misdemeanors, 4th w/in 15 years Class IIIA felony, 5th+ w/in 15 years Class III felonies, injury related DUI Class IIIA felony. If driver with prior felony conviction with BAC >0.15 caught driving with BAC >0.02, Class IIIA misdemeanor in addition to any other penaltiesDriving Under the Influence (DUI)15 years
Nevada0.080.181st-2nd misdemeanors, 3rd+ in 7 years Category B feloniesDriving Under the Influence (DUI)7 years
New Hampshire0.080.161st Class B misdemeanor, 2nd-3rd non-injury Class A misdemeanors, 4th+ non-injury felony, DUI with serious bodily injury Class B felonyDriving While Intoxicated (DWI)10 years
New Jersey0.080.15Drunken driving is a "violation" not a "crime"Driving Under the Influence (DUI)10 years
New Mexico0.080.161st-3rd not classified, 4th-5th fourth degree felony, 6th+ third degree felonyDriving While Impaired (DWI)Unlimited/lifetime
New York0.05 - DWAI, 0.08 - DUI0.18DWAI:1st traffic violation, 2nd+ misdemeanors; DWI: 1st misdemeanor, 2nd in 10 years Class E felony, 3rd+ in 10 years Class D felonyDriving While Intoxicated (DWI); High BAC Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated (ADWI)10 years for 2nd offense, 15 years for 3rd+
North Carolina0.080.151st-3rd classified as Level 1-5 based on sentence length, 4th+ Class F felonyDriving While Impaired (DWI)7 years
North Dakota0.080.181st and 2nd offense within 7 years are Class B misdemeanors. 3rd offense within 7 years is a Class A misdemeanor. 4th and subsequent offenses within 15 years are Class C feloniesDriving Under the Influence (DUI)7 years
Ohio0.080.171st-2nd first degree misdemeanors, 3rd misdemeanor, 4th in 6 years fourth degree felony, + in any time period third degree felonyOperating a Vehicle Under the Influence (OVI)10 years
Oklahoma0.080.151st misdemeanor, 2nd+ in 10 years feloniesDriving While Intoxicated (DWI)10 years
Oregon0.080.151st-3rd Class A misdemeanors, 4th+ Class C feloniesDriving Under the Influence of Intoxicants (DUII)10 years
Pennsylvania0.080.161st-2nd misdemeanors, 3rd+ second degree misdemeanorsDriving After Imbibing (DAI)10 years
Rhode Island0.080.151st-2nd non-injury misdemeanors, 3rd+ non-injury felony, DUI w/ serious bodily injury is felonyDriving While Intoxicated (DWI)5 years
South Carolina0.080.161st misdemeanor, 2nd in 10 years Class C misdemeanor, 3rd in 10 years Class A misdemeanor, 4th+ in 10 years Class F feloniesDriving Under the Influence (DUI)10 years
South Dakota0.080.171st-2nd Class 1 misdemeanors, 3rd in 10 years Class 6 felony, 4th in 10 years Class 5 felony, 5th+ Class 4 feloniesDriving Under the Influence (DUI)10 years
Tennessee0.080.21st-3rd Class A misdemeanors, 4th+ in 10 years Class E felonyDriving Under the Influence (DUI)10 years
Texas0.080.151st Class B misdemeanor, 2nd in 5 years Class A misdemeanor, 3rd+ third degree feloniesDriving While Intoxicated (DWI)Unlimited/lifetime for sentencing; 5 years for 2nd+ when determining need for IID
Utah0.08; changes to 0.05 12/20180.161st-2nd Class B misdemeanors, 3rd+ in 10 years third degree feloniesDriving Under the Influence (DUI)10 years
Vermont0.080.161st-2nd misdemeanors, 3rd+ feloniesDriving Under the Influence (DUI)Unlimited/lifetime
Virginia0.080.15; 0.21st-2nd Class 1 misdemeanors, 3rd+ in 10 years Class 6 felonyDriving Under the Influence (DUI)10 years
Washington0.080.151st-4th gross misdemeanor, 5th+ Class B felonyDriving Under the Influence (DUI)7 years
West Virginia0.080.151st-2nd misdemeanors, 3rd+ in 10 years feloniesDriving Under the Influence (DUI)10 years
Wisconsin0.080.17-.199; 0.2-0.249; 0.25+1st municipal offense, 2nd-3rd misdemeanors, 4th in 5 years and 5th-6th anytime Class H felony, 7th-9th Class G felony, 10th+ Class F felonyOperating While Intoxicated (OWI)10 years
Wyoming0.080.151st-3rd non-injury misdemeanor, 4th+ non-injury in 10 years felony, serious injury DUI is felonyDriving Under the Influence (DUI)10 years
Washington DC0.080.2-0.25; 0.25-0.3; 0.3+All are misdemeanorsDriving Under the Influence (DUI)15 years
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Getting a lawyer will help you navigate these charges if you are accused of a DUI in your state. For example, if you choose to refuse to blow a breathalyzer in Florida, your license is taken away for a year in Florida for refusal to blow.

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.

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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. It will also be hard to find cheap car insurance after a DUI charge.

We hope our breathalyzer comparison guide of the penalities and steps to take afterwards have helped you.  Take a moment to request free online car insurance quotes today by entering your ZIP code right now.

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