Can I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jun 05, 2015 | 0 Comments

If you are suspected for a DUI you will be requested to take a breathalyzer test. According to the National Highway Safety Administration, up to 20% of DUI suspects refuse to take the breathalyzer test when asked. It is important to know that if you refuse, you could face serious consequences. Penalties include a suspension of your driver's license, and possibly even jail time.

Implied Consent

Penalties for refusing the test are due to the concept of implied consent. Having a driver's license is a privilege, not a right. When you apply for your license, whether you realize it or not, you agree to take a sobriety test if you are called to, in exchange for the privilege of having a license.

License Suspension

A refusal to take the test will result in your license suspension by the DMV. The length of the suspension is usually 12 months. It is important to know that this is a separate penalty over and above the possible DUI penalties. The suspension is enforced through the Department of Motor Vehicles instead of the courts. (2019 UPDATE: DUI defendants convicted of DUI with the chemical refusal enhancement may be able to continue driving without restriction as long as they get an ignition interlock device (IID) installed in the car. The defendant will be given credit for the period of DMV suspension time served with an IID toward their Court ordered suspension. California Senate Bill 1046 (2018))

May Not Help The Situation

It is important to remember that the breathalyzer test is just one piece of evidence that the police can have against you. Police can also observe slurred speech, red eyes, unsteady gait, etc. Based on their observations and possibly a field sobriety test, they may be ready to arrest you for DUI irrespective of the breathalyzer results (which are usually conducted last). So just because you have refused the test by no means you are in the clear!

Also, in some states you can be charged with the refusal. So you could actually be found innocent of a DUI, but still be guilty of the refusal to take the test! If you have been charged with a DUI contact us for guidance and learn what defenses are available to you. Contact us today!

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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