Under implied consent laws, by applying for a driver's license, you automatically agree to sobriety testing if you're pulled over, and the police have probable cause to believe you're intoxicated. After stopping you on suspicion of DUI, an officer typically checks for signs of impairment and may ask you to submit to a Breathalyzer test to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC).
Not everyone willingly provides a breath sample. Police officers can't force DUI suspects to blow into a tube. More than 20% of drunk driving suspects in the U.S. refuse to take a breath test or blood test when an arresting officer suspects drunk driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
This article discusses implied consent laws generally. It also addresses the penalties for refusing to take a Breathalyzer test.
Implied Consent Laws
As noted above, when you apply for a driver's license, you consent to field sobriety tests and chemical tests to determine impairment when driving a motor vehicle. This is known as an implied consent law. Suppose you, as a driver, refuse to submit to blood alcohol concentration testing when a law enforcement officer has reasonable suspicion that you're driving under the influence of alcohol. In that case, you risk automatic license suspension and possible further administrative penalties.
Consequences for refusing to submit to a Breathalyzer test vary by state. This may explain the wide variance in statewide refusal rates. Most states impose an automatic six- or 12-month driver's license suspension for refusing a BAC test.
Suspensions typically increase if you're a motorist with past DUI convictions. You may even be subject to jail time. License revocation following refusal to take a test may also result in your car insurance company canceling your policy. In many states, refusing a Breathalyzer test can result in enhanced penalties if you're found guilty of DUI.
Penalties for Refusing a Breathalyzer Test
Penalties for refusing a Breathalyzer test vary by state. Below is a sampling of state DUI laws regarding Breathalyzer test refusal:
- California: A citation may be issued for refusing a chemical BAC test. Consenting to a blood draw after initially refusing a Breathalyzer test exempts the suspect from a refusal charge.
- New York: Automatic six-month license suspension plus a possible $500 fine
- Massachusetts: Six-month automatic license suspension. Refusal can't be used to imply guilt in a DUI case. Lifetime suspension for refusal after three prior DUI offenses
- Ohio: Mandatory minimum six-day jail sentence or three days in jail plus a 72-hour driver intervention program and a fine if you have a prior DUI conviction. There's a 20-day sentence if this is your second DUI charge in six years.
Learn More About Implied Consent Laws From a DUI Attorney
Think twice if you're considering refusing a chemical test after being pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence. You'll likely face license suspension and fines. Speak with an experienced DWI/DUI lawyer in your area to learn more about your state laws and get legal advice. A criminal defense attorney can help you with criminal charges following a DUI arrest and address any DUI penalties you may be facing, including loss of driving privileges.