Many states have enacted laws that treat a driver's refusal to submit to a breath or blood alcohol test as the equivalent of driving while intoxicated. These laws are designed to encourage compliance with law enforcement; after all, if you're going to be subject to the same penalties and fines for failing to take a breathalyzer test as you would be if you failed this test, why refuse?
But despite these laws, there are some situations in which it just doesn't make sense to submit to a breathalyzer test. Learn more about these situations and how to assess your options if you're pulled over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
When Does it Make Sense to Refuse a Breathalyzer?
A police officer must have probable cause to order a driver to take a breathalyzer test (and to cite the driver for his or her refusal). Absent probable cause for the initial stop, no criminal charges can be filed — even if the driver was later shown to have been driving while legally intoxicated.
This means that if you suspect that the reason you were pulled over was a pretext, you may be well within your rights to refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test. For example, if an officer indicated that he or she stopped you for expired plates, yet your plates clearly display an up-to-date renewal sticker, you're likely to win a claim that the officer had no valid cause to stop you.
Submitting to a breathalyzer under these circumstances could potentially incriminate you while refusing a breathalyzer (and, later, challenging the constitutionality of the traffic stop) could lead to the dismissal of charges.
In other cases, it may make sense to refuse a breathalyzer if you've been drinking but are certain you aren't intoxicated. Most states' DWI laws permit police to arrest drivers who are "under the influence," even if they're not legally intoxicated, and blowing a 0.02 on a breathalyzer could complicate your case more than refusing the breathalyzer and challenging the stop on other grounds.
What Consequences Could You Face for Refusing a Breathalyzer?
If you refuse a breathalyzer test, you may be arrested and charged with driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated. In most cases, you'll be able to be released from jail on your own recognizance (that is, by promising that you'll return for all future court dates or risk re-arrest) or by posting a small bond. You'll then be able to raise any probable cause defenses once charges are filed.
But not all breathalyzer refusals result in an arrest, particularly in cases where police aren't certain they'll be able to show that you were driving under the influence or where they don't think they can obtain a warrant for a blood draw to prove intoxication. This is why it's so important to be aware of your rights and prepared to assert them, even in the face of police pressure.
To learn more about how to prepare for your DWI case, contact a lawyer at a firm like Wilder Law Firm.Share
19 February 2020
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