Refusing A Breathalyzer Test During DUI Stop
In every state, refusing to take a breathalyzer is allowed, but it’s also grounds for punishment. That’s because of “implied consent” laws (source).
All states have adopted this law in some form and with varying penalties. In essence, the law forces drivers to consent to all field sobriety and chemical tests as a condition to being given a driver’s license. There’s no way to get around it. If you want to be a licensed driver, you have to consent.
The penalties for refusing differ across the country. Typically though, drivers can be fined around $500 and/or even jailed. In most states, refusal results in an automatic license suspension for generally about six months.
But the fun doesn’t end there. As with most crimes, the punishment tends to create a ripple effect across one’s life. In this case, a suspended license could cause your car insurance company to cancel your policy. And at the very least, your rates will likely go up.
It’s also important to note that refusing a breathalyzer test won’t necessarily save you from a DUI. Prosecutors can use other evidence, like the officer’s observations and a failed field sobriety test, to convict suspects.
Most states have laws that outline harsh penalties for those who refuse a breathalyzer (source). In some cases, there are penalties for refusing a breathalyzer that are separate from any conviction of a DUI offense.
If you refused a breathalyzer test during a recent DUI stop, you may want to speak with a DUI lawyer about your options. You may still be convicted of a DUI even if you refused to submit to a breath test.
Penalties for Refusing a Breathalyzer Test
According to the most recent data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the rate of refusal nationwide was about 25%, with one state’s refusal rate at 85%.
Since the statistics in 2002, several states have revised or enacted laws to provide for stricter DUI penalties for blood alcohol content test and breathalyzer refusal.
As of January 2006, 19 states have additional civil or criminal penalties for blood alcohol content test or breathalyzer refusal. These states want to make the cost of a refusal high enough to force compliance with breathalyzer or blood alcohol content test requirements.
The penalties include fines, insurance surcharges, suspension or revocation of vehicle registration, jail time and enhanced penalties for drivers who refuse the breathalyzer or blood alcohol test and are convicted of DUI.
State Penalties for Breathalyzer Refusal
Alaska, Minnesota and Nebraska DUI laws provide for jail time for first offense refusals.
With California and Vermont DUI laws, drivers who refuse the chemical test can be sentenced to jail terms if they’ve previously been convicted of DUI. In Vermont, the sentence can be as long as two years.
Under certain circumstances, fines for refusals reach as high as $10,000, not including court costs and increased insurance rates. In New Jersey, there’s a $3,000 insurance surcharge for a first offense refusal, and that number increases with subsequent offenses.
Both New Jersey and Rhode Island DUI laws require participation in an alcohol treatment program for blood or breathalyzer test refusal.
Can I Still Get Convicted of DUI?
Contrary to popular belief, drivers who refuse breathalyzer tests or chemical tests are convicted all of the time.
Other evidence such as the smell of alcohol, erratic driving, failure of field sobriety tests, the officer’s observations of your speech and demeanor, witness testimony or the presence of open alcohol or empty alcohol containers in your vehicle can be used against you in court.
If you’ve been charged with DUI and refused a chemical test, or if you’ve been charged with a chemical test refusal, talk to a DUI attorney in your state. You should know the potential penalties and possible defenses before you appear in court.
NOTE: The above summary (source) of breathalyzer refusal penalties is by no means all-inclusive and is not legal advice. Laws may have changed since our last update. For the latest information on DUI laws, speak to a local DUI lawyer in your state.
West Palm Beach DUI/DWI Attorney
It is not illegal to drink and drive in Florida, so long as your blood alcohol content (BAC) is not over .08 or your normal faculties are not impaired. At the law firm of Andrew D. Stine, P.A., in West Palm Beach, we advise our clients to neither blow into a breathalyzer machine nor do a roadside test. Why give evidence to the state if you don’t have to?
If you have submitted to a breathalyzer test and failed, that is not the end of your case. The Intoxilzer 5,000 and Intoxilzer 8,000 breathalyzer machines used to measure BAC in Florida have significant problems. If you have an expert witness and an experienced attorney who can challenge the accuracy of the machine in court, the BAC evidence may be thrown out. DUI/DWI Lawyer Andrew Stine has obtained not-guilty verdicts due to machine failure for clients who have had blood alcohol levels of .229 and .227.
The most important thing in DUI/DWI cases is early intervention by your attorney. This preliminary involvement will help you avoid the consequences of a conviction, which are very serious in Florida. We will also represent you at your hearing before the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles in order to protect your right to drive.
There are defenses in DUI accident cases, which an experienced and capable lawyer can use. Even if you made a statement to police during your arrest, our lawyers can usually get that evidence thrown out of court. Any statement you give officers cannot be used against you due to the Florida accident report privilege.
Free consultation 24/7: Call West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer Andrew D. Stine, P.A. at (561) 832-1170. Se habla español.