What Happens if You Refuse a BAC Test?
If law enforcement suspects someone is driving while intoxicated, they can request them to take a BAC test. Many people might think it’s best to refuse the test so that there is no evidence indicating they were driving over the legal limit. However, there are consequences for that.
A one- to two-year license suspension is a common consequence if you refuse a BAC test. Typically, it is better to take a test and allow a DUI attorney to handle the rest. There are many defenses they can create to show a judge that the results are inaccurate; therefore, the court should dismiss the charges or reduce the sentence.
What Is a BAC Test?
A blood alcohol content (BAC) test measures the level of alcohol in the blood. The amount of alcohol in the blood varies based on how much alcohol a person drinks, how quickly they drink it, how much food they consume before drinking, and their age and weight.
If someone drinks more alcohol than their liver can break down, they can experience intoxication and have an increased BAC level.
Why Does Law Enforcement Take BAC Tests?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 32 people die in the United States every day because of a drunk drivers. Laws are put in place to lower the risk of drunk drivers, and police use a BAC test to determine someone’s level of intoxication.
BAC tests are helpful tools for law enforcement because they provide proof of how intoxicated someone is. The higher the BAC percentage, the more intoxicated a person is.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), BAC-level percentages impair drivers in the following ways:
- 0.02 percent: The driver could exhibit some loss of judgment, relaxation, and slight body warmth. The effects on driving include a decline in visual functions and the ability to multitask. This percentage is below the legal limit. Drivers over the age of 21 with a .02 percent BAC will not receive a DUI charge.
- 0.05 percent: Exaggerated behavior could create a small loss of muscle control. At this level, the driver could also experience lowered alertness. This level of intoxication’s effects on driving includes a decline in coordination and difficulty steering. They also have a reduced response to emergencies that could occur.
- 0.08 percent: Most states consider this above the legal limit and will issue a DUI. At this point, muscle coordination is poor, and it is harder for the driver to exhibit good judgment and self-control. As a result, they could have short-term memory loss and reduced information processing capabilities.
- 0.10 percent: Reaction time significantly lowers, and the driver could exhibit slurred speech and poor coordination. They may have a lowered ability to stay in the correct lane and to brake when necessary.
- 0.15 percent: People with this BAC level could have very low muscle control and a loss of balance. This can significantly affect their ability to control a vehicle and pay attention to the driving task.
Since the legal limit in most states is .08 percent, anyone who has a BAC above that percentage could receive a DUI, and the prosecution can use the BAC test results as evidence during a case.
Situations Where Law Enforcement Uses a BAC Test
Law enforcement utilizes BAC tests for legal evidence when they suspect someone was driving while intoxicated. If their BAC is above the legal limit, police can issue a DUI.
Situations, where law enforcement could request a BAC test, include if they notice a driver exhibit intoxication symptoms, and they may include:
- Difficulty balancing
- Poor coordination
- Slurred speech
- Poor judgment
The BAC results help law enforcement officers determine if they will move forward with an arrest or if the driver is safe to continue driving. For example, if the driver’s BAC level is above .08 percent, they will likely arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Types of BAC Tests
There are two types of BAC tests law enforcement officials use. It depends on how quickly they need the results of the test.
For example, Breathalyzers can provide results faster, while blood tests can provide more accurate results.
- Breathalyzer: Law enforcement officers can perform these tests on sight to determine if someone’s alcohol level warrants an arrest. The alcohol vapor in someone’s breath can provide a BAC percentage.
- Blood test: A blood test can provide more accurate results than a Breathalyzer test. If law enforcement needs evidence for a case, having an accurate BAC from blood is helpful.
- Urine test: Law enforcement could test a person’s urine to detect how much alcohol is in their system.
If the driver receives a DUI charge, the BAC results will get used as evidence against them.
Consequences of Refusing to Take a BAC Test
Many people believe that if they refuse to take a BAC test, law enforcement won’t have evidence to prove they drove intoxicated. However, law enforcement can still arrest someone suspected of driving while intoxicated, and that person may face further consequences for refusing the BAC test.
Most states have implied consent laws, stating that when someone gets a driver’s license and drives on the roads, they give consent for law enforcement to stop them on suspicion of drunk driving. This also implies they consent to any necessary tests to determine if they have an intoxication level over the legal limit. If they refuse, they may face penalties.
During a court hearing, law enforcement could use the refusal to cooperate by taking the test as an admission of guilt. If you’ve refused a Breathalyzer test, an attorney can build a solid defense to help you avoid further charges.
In most states, after refusing a Breathalyzer test:
- The state could suspend the license of a person for their first refusal of a BAC test. After a second refusal within a seven-year period, they could receive a longer license suspension and/or jail time.
- The person who refuses the BAC test could still receive a DUI immediately if the police officers have probable cause. If needed, law enforcement could likely obtain a warrant quickly.
Again, law enforcement could use the refusal of the BAC test as evidence against the defendant if the case goes to trial.
What Happens Next After Refusing a BAC Test?
After refusing a BAC test, law enforcement will follow certain procedures that may result in suspending the suspect’s driver’s license.
The following steps include what happens next in that scenario:
- The officer who requested the BAC test files documentation with their police department stating the defendant refused the BAC test. The documentation requests that the person will receive a license suspension. The license suspension will go into effect however many days after the documentation gets filed.
- The defendant will lose their license immediately from their possession. They will then receive a temporary permit that they can use for a time. Then, the license may get fully suspended unless they request a hearing.
- The defendant can request a hearing to avoid having their license suspended. During the hearing, they can present evidence indicating they’re not guilty. It is helpful for defendants to hire attorneys to help them request a hearing and prepare for it.
- The courts can schedule the hearings within several weeks or months. In some cases, the defendant can receive a temporary permit to continue driving while waiting for the hearing to occur. Attorneys can advocate for their clients by requesting they have a temporary permit while waiting for the hearing.
- During the hearings, the prosecution and defense can present their case in front of a judge. When the defendant has an attorney, they can prepare a solid case to help their client keep their license. The judge will determine whether the defendant can keep their license based on the cases presented.
- If the defendant has their license suspended, they can get their license back after their punishment is over, and if they didn’t get another DUI.
Attorneys can provide legal representation throughout the entirety of this process. When someone receives a DUI, they might not know the steps and procedures to follow. Attorney can inform their client of their legal rights and options, so they know what to expect through the hearing process.
Should Someone Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?
While BAC results could serve as evidence against the defendant, it is typically in their best interests to take the test. In general, when someone refuses the test, either law enforcement can quickly secure a warrant and require it anyway, or they could receive a license suspension.
Another reason to take the test is that attorneys can fight that the results are inaccurate. When the BAC results come from a Breathalyzer, many defenses may indicate the Breathalyzer did not provide an accurate result. DUI attorneys typically have the skills and knowledge needed to prove the Breathalyzer provided inaccurate results.
How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Challenge Breathalyzer Evidence
After someone receives a DUI charge, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will have to face the consequences of a DUI. Breathalyzers can malfunction and produce results that aren’t accurate. Attorneys who represent clients who provided a sample through a Breathalyzer test can fight that there are inaccuracies in the results.
Other defenses include:
- The officers made an illegal traffic stop. Law enforcement cannot pull someone over unless they have probable cause. For example, if someone gets pulled over for speeding, law enforcement may not have grounds to request a BAC test. The police officers must have a reason to request the BAC test, such as swerving in and out of traffic or an open container in the vehicle.
- The police officers did not read the defendant their Miranda Rights. Law enforcement officials must read people they arrest their constitutional rights. If they don’t, an attorney can use that to say that the police didn’t follow protocol.
- The BAC test provided inaccurate results. There are many factors that go into how a Breathalyzer test obtains results. Therefore, there are possibilities of inaccuracies. An attorney can look into records to see when the test was last calibrated. If law enforcement didn’t properly maintain it, the attorney can form a defense around this error.
Getting a DUI charge is an intimidating experience for anyone. They might worry about how this could affect their job or ability to drive in the future. Thankfully, there are options available to help defendants avoid convictions.
DUI attorneys know the steps to take to help their clients get their charges dismissed or lowered. Just because they received a charge doesn’t mean they have to deal with the consequences of a conviction for the rest of their life.
An Attorney Can Build a Defense Around Your BAC Test Results
If law enforcement stopped you and you refused the BAC test, you could face harsh penalties, including a license suspension. A criminal defense lawyer advocates for defendants and works to help them avoid convictions. When you’re in trouble, call on a team to build a case to have your charges dismissed or lowered.
Contact a Phoenix criminal defense law firm for legal help or more information about what happens if you refuse a BAC test. A legal representative can answer your questions and provide information about your legal options. With a lawyer by your side, you can rest assured that they will take care of your legal matters.