Should You Refuse A Breathalyzer Test?

7 May 2019
 Categories: , Blog

What do you do when you know you've been drinking and you're pulled over by the police on a traffic violation and asked to submit to a breathalyzer test because the officer can smell the alcohol on your breath or thinks your eyes are a little glassy?

This is a tough choice. Ultimately, you're the one who has to make the call, but there are times it probably is smarter to refuse to take the breathalyzer test despite the consequences. Here's what you have to consider.

Implied consent laws mean you're going to be punished for refusing.

Implied consent laws are now present everywhere in the nation. Essentially, when you ask a state to grant you a driver's license you automatically agree (or "consent") to take a breathalyzer if asked. This is based on the idea that a driver's license is a privilege, not a right. As such, that privilege will likely be revoked for at least a year if you refuse the breathalyzer test. 

The punishment for refusing could still be better than the alternative.

Taking the breathalyzer test when you know you've been drinking and think that your blood-alcohol content could be close to the legal limit—or well over it—is just handing the police all of the evidence they may need to convict you of drunk driving. Depending on where you live and your prior history, you can even be charged in a way that puts you under the threat of an enhanced penalty—especially if your blood-alcohol concentration is particularly high.

Refusing the breathalyzer test forces the officer to justify a warrant in order to force you to submit to chemical testing. There's a possibility that refusing the breathalyzer could cost you your license to drive but stop you from receiving a drunk driving charge. There's also the possibility that you'll eventually have to submit to chemical testing, but the delay may give you time for your body to lower its blood-alcohol content to acceptable limits.

Refusing the test can give your attorney more to challenge.

If you do refuse the test because you either know or suspect you will fail it and are then forced to submit to chemical testing anyhow, your defense attorney may have more to work with in order to defend you. Your attorney can challenge not only the basis for the traffic stop but also the basis for the officer's belief you were intoxicated. He or she can also challenge the warrant that eventually obliged you to submit to chemical testing, the way the test was administered, how it was evaluated, and the chain of evidence that followed.

Ultimately, there's no one correct answer when it comes to the question of whether or not you should refuse a breathalyzer test if you've been drinking, but there is information you can use to make an informed decision. If you're arrested, contact a DUI personal attorney promptly.