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Can You Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?

By Edward Tan, JD on May 15, 2012 | Last updated on December 16, 2022

It's never a good idea to drive drunk -- it puts people's lives in danger. But just because you did something wrong, doesn't mean you should give up your right to refuse a breathalyzer test, right?

Not exactly.

So let's get down to it: Are you legally allowed to refuse to take a breathalyzer?

While you might be hoping that the answer is "it depends on your state," it's actually the opposite.

In every state, refusing to take a breathalyzer is allowed, but it's also grounds for punishment. That's because of "implied consent" laws.

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.

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