Arrested for a DUI: Will Refusing a Breathalyzer Test Result in Suspension?

If you are pulled over and suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol and you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test, you will get a drivers license suspension under the Implied Consent laws in your state. It is also possible that your defense attorney can successfully fight the suspension, but more on that later.

Implied Consent

Every state has implied consent laws, although they vary slightly in how they are administered and the penalties for violation. Under an implied consent law, you are said to understand that driving is a privilege, not a right, and that by getting a drivers license you agree in advance to give your consent should a law enforcement officer find cause to ask you to submit to a breathalyzer or other blood alcohol test.

  • Implied consent laws are intended to deter drivers from driving while intoxicated by handing down immediate license suspensions for not complying with a request to submit to a breathalyzer.
  • Implied consent laws also serve to provide chemical evidence in more cases of suspected drunk driving, resulting in higher conviction rates, which is hoped to deter drunk driving in the first place.

License Suspension

In many states, the immediate drivers license suspension is handled as an administrative task by the police officer on the scene, as a power extended to him or her by the state's department of motor vehicles. There is no guilt or innocence; it is presented as simply a yes/no situation. If you refuse to take the breathalyzer, your license is suspended even if you have no alcohol in your system at all.

  • License suspensions for refusal are often for more than several months, and can be up to a year long.
  • If you are ultimately convicted of DUI, and sentenced to a license suspension as a result of the conviction that license suspension is usually added to the one you received for refusing the breathalyzer.

Additional Penalties

Beyond license suspension, in some states there are additional penalties for refusing the breathalyzer:

  • In Vermont, if you refuse a blood alcohol test and you have a previous conviction for DUI you can be jailed for up to 2 years just for the refusal.
  • Minnesota and Nebraska are two states that can jail those who refuse even if this is the first DUI.
  • In some states your refusal to take the breathalyzer can be entered into evidence at your trial as an admission of guilt on your part.

Get Legal Help

Of course, the best advice is to never drink and drive.Many criminal defense attorneys would advise their clients that if they are ever in a situation where a law enforcement officer is asking them to submit to a breathalyzer that they refuse to do so until they have spoken to their attorney.Be polite, but don't be intimidated. While the penalties for violating implied consent laws can be harsh, the penalties for a DUI conviction can be harsher overall. Insist on speaking with a criminal defense attorney before you provide any evidence or say anything that could incriminate yourself.

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