It’s New Year’s Eve and you’ve just left an exhilarating party. Throughout the night, you had quite a few drinks, but you don’t feel tipsy so you decide to drive home. You turn out of the driveway and onto the main road. The scene is eerie, it seems that like you’re the only car on the road for miles. You turn on the radio and start surfing through stations as you gradually relax. Suddenly, you feel a bit drowsy, but attribute it to the quiet of the night and lulling radio station you’ve chosen. Suddenly, you see lights in your rearview mirror. Groaning, you pull off of the road and wait for the police officer to approach. You don’t panic; after all, you’re not drunk and were driving safely. However, the police officer who pulled you over feels differently. When asked to take the breathalyzer, you hesitate, do you have the right to refuse and potentially escape DUI penalties?
Often, drivers, regardless of whether or not they have been drinking, may feel like they should have the right to refuse any sort of chemical testing when pulled over. However, according to the law, although drivers can refuse to have their blood alcohol levels tested, the decision will not be without consequences. All states have a law known as the “implied consent law”. Although not everyone may read the entire agreement or small print, drivers sign an agreement for implied consent law when obtaining a driver’s license. If for some reason you are arrested or pulled over in a different state, you have to comply with the laws of the state you’re in and not the state you’re from. While most defense attorneys will argue that implied consent laws are slightly unfair based on certain amendments, the reasoning behind implied consent laws is that law enforcement needs to have the right to determine whether or not a driver is potentially dangerous to the public. Now, place yourself back into the above scenario. You’ve been pulled over and the officer wants to test your blood alcohol levels. Is it better to refuse because you know you’re not drunk, or should you comply to avoid the consequences imposed?
Unfortunately, anytime you’re pulled over for potential drunk driving, the only way the outcome can be good is if your blood alcohol levels are at a legal level, which in most states is .08 percent. So, if you know for sure that your blood alcohol levels are legal, definitely comply to the chemical testing. Some drivers may know that they are above the legal limit and may consider refusing the chemical testing. Sadly, those drivers only dig a deeper hole. In most states, your driver’s license can be suspended to up for one year if chemical testing is refused. Additionally, even if you aren’t found guilty and face no DUI penalties, your license can still be suspended for refusing to have your blood alcohol levels tested. The penalties according to the implied consent law can vary depending on which chemical tests you refuse. For example, the penalties for refusing “field” chemical tests, such as the breathalyzer and horizontal line tests, are less severe than if you refuse a blood or urine test. Even worse, in some states, refusal to take a chemical test can be the same as saying “I’m guilty, I was drunk” in the courtroom when your case is tried. The bottom line is that you will face much more severe consequences for refusing chemical testing whether or not you are facing DUI penalties.
Consequences for refusing chemical testing can include: fines, jail time, insurance surcharges, license or vehicle registrations suspension or revocation. The specific consequences can vary depending on whether or not you’ve already had a DUI and the state in which you are in violation of the law. For example, in some states, if you already have one DUI and refuse chemical tests, you’ll be convicted of “Implied Consent Violation” and will be sentenced to jail time in addition to DUI penalties. However, some states are even stricter and may send you to jail for refusing chemical tests. Although some drivers may try to claim ignorance, the story will not hold up in court.
If you refuse to take a breathalyzer or any other chemical test, the police officer who pulled you over should read you an “implied consent notice” so that you are well aware of the consequences of refusing tests. If you’re arrested and your case is sent to court, be advised that the sixth amendment doesn’t apply to such cases. The sixth amendment states that if you can’t afford an attorney one will be appointed for you. However, in such a case as refusal of chemical testing, the Supreme Court decided that the sixth amendment would not apply.
No matter whether you might be facing DUI penalties or not, if you’re pulled over and asked to take a breathalyzer, it’s best to comply to avoid jail time, fines, and potential license suspension.