Can I Refuse a Breathalyzer? What You Need to Know About Saying No

In the United States, over 1.4 million drivers are charged with DUI annually. Because of this, many people are wondering, “Can you refuse a breathalyzer?”

It’s always an option, but is it the right option for you?

Getting charged with a DUI is serious business. Because 30 people die in drunk driving accidents each day, the law puts you through the ringer if you’re convicted of DUI. Some people assume that if they refuse a breathalyzer, they can’t get charged with a DWI.

This isn’t true.

If you’re going to say the words “I refuse” to a breathalyzer test, here’s what you need to know:

Can You Refuse a Breathalyzer?

The short answer is “yes,” but the long answer is complicated.

Contrary to popular belief, you can still be arrested for DWI even without consenting to blood alcohol concentration (BAC) testing.

If you refuse a breathalyzer test, many states interpret this refusal as incriminating. Refusing a breathalyzer test carries its own set of penalties, regardless if you’re convicted of drunk driving or not.

(More on that later.)

Prosecutors can use your refusal against you at trial. If you’re charged with DUI, you could get a harder sentence if you refuse to blow into a breathalyzer.

In other words, you might get more jail time for refusing the breathalyzer, especially if this isn’t your first DWI offense.

Prosecutors can also base a DUI charge off of other evidence. For instance, you can still get a DUI conviction if the officer says they observed the smell of alcohol on your breath, witnessed you slurring your words, saw your discoordinated movements, or anything else incriminating.

Juries usually take the cop’s word.

If the officer has dash cam evidence of you driving out of control, your lawyer might not be able to save you.

Type of Breathalyzer

Some states differentiate penalties for refusing a breathalyzer, depending on what kind of breathalyzer it is.

If you refuse a mobile breathalyzer in certain states, you’ll receive a light penalty. Light, of course, in comparison to refusing breathalyzer at a hospital or police station. In that case, you’ll face more serious consequences.

Check with local laws and ordinances to see if your state has this distinction.

Implied Consent Laws

Driving is considered a privilege, not a right. That’s why the state can hit you with fines, jail time, and license suspensions for refusing a breathalyzer test. Officers and the state see your refusal as proof of driving while intoxicated.

All states have something called “implied consent laws.” When you signed for your license, you agreed to meet certain conditions.

For instance, to fulfill some of these conditions, you had to undergo a DMV sample driving test to get your license. Another one of these conditions is agreeing to implied consent laws.

As such, you agreed to submit to blood, urine, or breath testing when suspected of driving under the influence. If you don’t, the state will suspend your license for 12 months. (The length of license suspension varies from state to state.)

Another implied consent law you agreed to was taking a field sobriety test (FST) if you’re suspected of a DUI.

Implied consent laws vary between states. Read more here about implied consent laws in Texas.

You are subject to the implied consent laws of the jurisdiction you’re in. That means if you’re from New York and pulled over in Texas, you’re expected to obey Texas’s implied consent laws.

“No Refusal” DUI Initiatives

In response to people refusing breathalyzers, some states have passed “No Refusal” DUI enforcement. These initiatives let police officers issue warrants to force people to comply with breath testing.

In the old days, people used to sober up while waiting for the officer to get a warrant. Now, with the help of technology, officers can get electronic warrants with ease.

If you refuse a warrant-enforced breath test, you could face contempt charges. The police might also force you to comply with a blood test by drawing your blood by force.

Nearly half of all states can legally enforce these initiatives. There’s always a chance you might run into a sticky situation with these initiatives.

During holidays and wild weekends, there’s often a judge on standby to grant electronic warrants to officers ASAP. This is to make arresting drunk drivers more efficient.

Penalties and Fines

Once again: Refusing a breathalyzer comes with its own set of penalties. Some people decide enduring these penalties isn’t as bad as getting a DUI.

One of them is immediate license suspension. You probably won’t be able to use your license for a full year.

You’ll also get slapped with fines. Sure, a DUI is expensive, but so is refusing a breath test.

In some states, refusing a breathalyzer is a crime in and of itself. You could face not only license suspension and fines, but jail time as well.

If you have a history of DWI, you’ll face harsher punishments from the state. This could include state-mandated rehab for alcohol addiction.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you’re ever in trouble with the law for refusing a breathalyzer test, contact a lawyer. A DUI lawyer will help you navigate the law and help you get the lightest sentence possible.

This is especially important if you’ve already been convicted of a DUI and this is your second offense.

Don’t rely on articles to give you legal advice. Only a local lawyer can give you solid advice for your personal situation.

Don’t Drink and Drive

In all 50 states, drivers over 21 with a BAC over 0.08 can’t legally drive. Can you refuse a breathalyzer and avoid the consequences? No, you can’t.

If you’re under 21, you can’t have any alcohol in your system behind the wheel, even if your BAC is below 0.08. There’s a push to lower the legal BAC limit to 0.05. The best thing you can do is avoid drunk driving in the first place.

Buckle your seat belt, get set, and go discover more facts about automobile life. By the time you’re done, you’ll be a better driver.

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