Tuscaloosa, AL- When an officer pulls a driver over and suspects they have been drinking, they can rely on their observations to arrest that driver, but they always ask drivers to submit to a battery of sobriety tests to confirm their suspicions. That proof is usually obtained by asking the suspect DUI driver to consent to a breath test, commonly referred to as a breathalyzer, which records the amount of alcohol a person has in their bloodstream. All drivers have the right to refuse field sobriety and breathalyzer tests but doing so can have immediate consequences.
Most people know they don’t have to agree to a breath test, but many don’t realize their refusal may not actually keep them from being charged with a DUI. In some states a driver, who refuses to submit to a breathalyzer or refuses to give a blood or urine sample for a chemical test, will automatically lose their license for several months up to a year. In other states, refusing to submit to a breath test can mean an immediate jail sentence.
Despite what many may think, driving is considered a privilege not a right. When a person gets their license, whether they are aware of it or not, they are agreeing to meet certain requirements outlined by their state’s implied consent laws. Implied consent typically means you agree to carry your license and insurance information in your automobile at all times. And, in at least 20 states, “implied consent” also means you are agreeing to submit to breathalyzer tests and chemical tests when an officer believes you are intoxicated.
Implied consent laws pertaining to drunken driving were developed because in the past drivers have tried to circumvent DUI charges by refusing to submit to sobriety tests.
If an officer asks you to take a sobriety test and you say “No” he can immediately confiscate your license on the scene, this is considered and administrative action. They can do this because you broke your original agreement with the state and they can charge you with a DUI anyway.
In Alaska, Minnesota and Nebraska a person who refuses a sobriety test can be sentenced to jail.
There is a misconception that refusing a breathalyzer deprives the prosecution of the evidence they need to secure a DUI conviction. This is not always the case since some courts will convict a person based on an officer’s observations alone. Any actions you take or statements you make prior to or after an officer stops you will be recorded in their report and used by the prosecution. It should be noted, though, that is much easier for a DUI attorney to challenge an officer’s observations than the results of a breathalyzer.
Some states tack on additional penalties when a driver is convicted of a DUI and refused a breathalyzer.
Refusing to submit to breathalyzers can in some states can work to your benefit or can actually hurt you in the end. If you’ve been arrested and refused a sobriety test, you need to contact a DUI attorney in your state immediately to detail the consequences you may face and begin developing an effective defense strategy.