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What Happens if You Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?

What Happens if You Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?

If you refuse a Breathalyzer test, you could face the consequences. The consequences vary based on the state where the incident occurs. However, common consequences could include a one-year or two-year license suspension, depending on whether you have prior DUI convictions. Fortunately, you could fight the charges to avoid temporarily losing your license.

After refusing the Breathalyzer test, you could have a hearing to determine if the license suspension will stand. Having a criminal defense attorney by your side through these proceedings can help tremendously.

They can provide evidence that the police didn’t have a reasonable suspicion to believe you were intoxicated and had no right to request you take the Breathalyzer test, among other possible defenses. In addition, to know more about what happens if you refuse a Breathalyzer test, a DUI attorney can provide guidance.

Can I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?

Each state has different laws determining what happens if someone refuses to take a Breathalyzer test. In many states, drivers can refuse a Breathalyzer, blood, or another chemical test. However, in some states, the police need the warrant to force someone to take the test.

Just because people have the right to refuse a Breathalyzer test doesn’t mean it won’t come without consequences. If someone refuses a Breathalyzer test, their driving privileges could be suspended for one year or more. In some states, refusing to take a test for a second time within a certain period could lead to enhanced penalties, such as a longer driver’s license suspension.

Once an officer takes the driver’s license away, they can typically get a temporary driving permit, valid for a short period. They can then challenge the suspension if they request a hearing within the timeframe specified by the state. Again, hiring a criminal defense attorney can help to ensure that offenders don’t miss deadlines regarding these hearings.

What Happens After Refusing a Breathalyzer Test?

After someone refuses a Breathalyzer test, they could have to deal with a license suspension of one year or more.

Other things that could happen include:

  • The officer could obtain a search warrant to conduct the Breathalyzer test to get the BAC information they need to potentially make an arrest.
  • The law enforcement officers may believe they have enough evidence and probable cause that the person is driving while intoxicated. In that case, they can still make the arrest even without the Breathalyzer test results.
  • If the case goes to a trial, the prosecution could include the defendant’s refusal to take the Breathalyzer test in the case’s evidence.

After the license suspension, the person who refused the test could get their license reinstated. Although, they may first need to take a drug and alcohol education program before getting their license back.

You Could Have a License Suspension Hearing

After refusing a Breathalyzer test, the police officer will likely file documentation with the state’s motor vehicle department indicating that they refused the Breathalyzer test. Then, the person who refused the test could have to surrender their license to their state. After that, the person who refused the test could submit a hearing request, and the state will schedule it within a certain timeframe.

At the license suspension hearing for a Breathalyzer refusal, the following needs to happen:

  • The police must prove they had reasonable grounds to presume the driver was driving while intoxicated.
  • The police officer must show they informed the driver of the possible consequences of refusing the Breathalyzer test.

With the police having this responsibility of proof, this could help your case especially if you have an attorney poking holes in their story and providing a reasonable explanation as to why you refused.

If the police cannot prove they had reasonable suspicion to order the Breathalyzer test, the charges could get dropped. During these proceedings, the individual who requested the hearing could represent themselves or hire a criminal defense attorney. A criminal defense attorney could help because they can know the right things to say and the correct evidence to present.

Understanding Breathalyzer Tests

A Breathalyzer refers to a device that tests someone’s blood alcohol content (BAC) in their system. Law enforcement officials could get this data through blood, saliva, urine, or breath samples. When officers pull someone over that they suspect has been drinking, the Breathalyzer offers the easiest and most efficient way to get quick information about someone’s BAC level.

How Do Breathalyzer Tests Work?

Breathalyzers work when someone blows into the device and estimates their BAC. This will show the amount of alcohol in someone’s blood. Law enforcement uses this percentage to determine if someone has more than the legal limit in their body while driving.

When someone drinks alcohol, the body’s stomach lining absorbs it and puts it into the bloodstream. When blood passes through the lungs, the alcohol can evaporate into the lungs and therefore, a Breathalyzer can get a BAC reading through breath.

Are Breathalyzer Tests Accurate?

Are Breathalyzer Tests Accurate?

Breathalyzers do have a margin of error when it comes to identifying someone’s BAC level. For instance, these test results can vary based on the device’s calibration or biological factors for the test taker. So, people may get charged with DUIs because of an inaccurate Breathalyzer test. Likewise, if law enforcement doesn’t properly maintain or calibrate the Breathalyzer test, they may not get an accurate result.

With the inaccuracies of some Breathalyzer tests, they could get thrown out as evidence because they may not provide conclusive proof that someone drove over the legal limit. A Breathalyzer also can’t account for the factors that could affect its reading.

Factors That Affect a Breathalyzer’s Accuracy

Several factors could affect the accuracy of a Breathalyzer test, including:

  • Other compounds in the breath: Many items contain or retain alcohol that people aren’t aware of. This could include mouthwash, cough syrup, or breath spray. A driver might not have consumed enough alcohol for their breath to indicate they’re over the limit. Unfortunately, if they consumed these items shortly before, the alcohol in their mouth could increase the test results.
  • Temperature: If someone has a fever when they provide a breath sample, it could give inaccurate results. BAC results could increase with an increased body temperature.
  • Medical conditions: Several medical conditions could affect the reading on a Breathalyzer. These conditions could include diabetes, GERD, or even when people are on low-carb diets. People with asthma who use an albuterol inhaler could also blow above the legal limit because of the compounds found in the inhaler.
  • Human error: The Breathalyzer could provide inaccurate results because of human error. This could happen on the law enforcement side or with the person providing the breath sample. Law enforcement could calibrate the Breathalyzer incorrectly, or someone could provide an ineffective sample.
  • The volume of air: The volume of air pushed into the device can matter. Research has shown that the first breath blown in the beginning could have a lower BAC reading than the breath blown at the end. People who hyperventilate could also have less dissolved breath alcohol and could show lower readings.
  • Foods: The consumption of certain foods can cause a Breathalyzer to indicate someone has an inaccurately high BAC level. These foods/drinks could include protein bars, fermented sodas, energy drinks, hot sauce, or certain fruits.

Several factors can influence the accuracy of the Breathalyzer, and each person has factors that could affect their BAC level. For example, females metabolize alcohol differently than men because they have less alcohol dehydrogenase. This could increase their level even after drinking the same amount as men. In addition, having food in the stomach can also slow the absorption of alcohol.

How an Attorney Could Help if You Refuse a Breathalyzer Test

Most states prohibit driving with a BAC that exceeds 0.08 percent. If you get pulled over and asked to take the test, it might feel tempting to refuse a Breathalyzer. While refusing to provide a breath sample for a Breathalyzer test could eliminate evidence for a DUI, the prosecution could use the refusal as admitting guilt.

When people refuse the test, they could face the consequences. To avoid these penalties, an attorney can take the appropriate steps to help.

Common steps an attorney could take to help their client in this situation could include:

  • Speaking to the prosecution on your behalf. When dealing with legal matters, it can prove difficult for someone who doesn’t have experience with this type of law. An attorney can speak on the offender’s behalf so they don’t say anything that could incriminate themselves.
  • Filing any necessary paperwork to help avoid the license getting revoked. An attorney also knows legal options that people might not know about if they don’t hire legal representation.
  • Defending you during hearings to explain your reasoning for refusal. An attorney can indicate the police officer didn’t explain your rights or what the potential consequences of refusing to provide a breath sample were.
  • Helping to keep a license valid while the case progresses. A lawyer can help convince a judge to allow the person to keep their license and drive legally during the case’s proceedings. These proceedings could take months. Having a license during this time could help significantly.
  • Preventing the state from revoking your license. On top of ensuring someone can keep their license through legal proceedings, a lawyer can work to ensure that they keep their license in the long run. Attorneys know defensive strategies to utilize to help their clients keep their licenses.

Getting a criminal defense lawyer soon after the incident could help the case significantly. Unfortunately, many people who don’t seek legal assistance don’t know their rights after refusing a Breathalyzer and might accept that their license will get revoked.

BAC Levels and the Effect on Driving Capabilities

Law enforcement uses a Breathalyzer to determine if someone has a high BAC level. This can help to keep the roads safer by reducing the number of drunk drivers. The higher someone’s BAC level, the more the alcohol could affect their driving capabilities.

The following BAC levels could affect drivers in the following ways:

  • 0.02: You might have some loss in judgment, relaxation, or a buzz.
  • 0.05: You might see more impaired judgment and loss of inhibition.
  • 0.08: You’ll start to have lower muscle coordination and even more impaired judgment at this level.
  • 0.10: You may start to slur speech, have impaired reaction time, and even more impaired reasoning.
  • 0.15 – 0.30: At this stage, you’ll likely feel confused or the need to vomit.

In most states, the legal BAC limit is 0.08 percent. If someone has a Breathalyzer test result over that percentage, they could get charged with a DUI. People who believe their Breathalyzer will read over the legal limit might refuse to take the test because they fear the potential consequences of a DUI. Unfortunately, you could face many penalties if you refuse to take the Breathalyzer test.

A Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help After Refusing a Breathalyzer Test

omer-gurion-headshot
Omer Gurion, Criminal Defense Attorney

You can contact a criminal defense team for more information about what happens if you refuse a Breathalyzer test. A lawyer’s team can explain the necessary steps to ensure you get a hearing. A lawyer can also build a solid defense on your behalf so you have a chance at keeping your driver’s license.

Many law firms offer free consultations. They can provide information about your legal options and inform you of how they can help. In addition, a lawyer can aggressively advocate for you to keep your license and help you move on with your life after this incident.

You don’t have to allow a Breathalyzer refusal to uproot your life for a year or two. A lawyer can help you avoid a license suspension altogether.