Is there a penalty for refusing a breathalyzer test?
A quick Google search will provide you with plenty of conflicting information which, unfortunately, leads many people to believe half-truths or even complete lies. This is dangerous when your freedom is in question.
For instance, you’re probably familiar with the myth that you shouldn’t submit to a breathalyzer test during a DUI stop.
But is it a good idea to actually follow this advice? After all, you have the right to avoid incriminating yourself.
The short answer is no.
Refusing the test will likely be even more detrimental to your case than taking the test and receiving a positive reading.
Bear in mind that reading this blog doesn’t qualify as a piece of legal advice concerning your specific DUI case. If you would like to discuss your rights and available options, make an appointment with an actual DUI lawyer in Spokane, Washington for genuine legal advice.
Always seek legal counsel if you have been charged with a DUI but, for now, let’s go over why cooperating with an officer’s request for a blood-alcohol level test is preferred over refusing it entirely.
The Breathalyzer Test and Implied Consent
Can you refuse a breathalyzer test? Technically yes, but you shouldn’t. This is due to the concept of “implied consent.”
This means a person has more or less already consented to certain actions and responsibilities by virtue of engaging in a specific activity. In other words, your explicit consent to a breathalyzer is not necessary because you’ve already provided consent by driving your vehicle.
Driving itself is not a right but a privilege governed by the state. This privilege requires you to hold a license and abide by certain laws such as monitoring the possible blood alcohol content (BAC) at any given time.
By getting a license, insurance, tags, and driving on public roads paid for by tax dollars, you have already agreed to abide by the state’s laws. The laws governing your BAC while behind the wheel also fall into this implied consent. As such, a law enforcement officer has the right to request proof that you are in compliance with those laws which – in the case of a suspected DUI – comes in the form of a BAC test.
Since your BAC is tested using a breathalyzer, you’ve essentially already agreed that you’ll submit to one when requested simply by holding a license and driving a vehicle.
Can You Refuse a Breathalyzer Test? Here’s When It’s Optional
You can refuse a breathalyzer test, but you probably won’t like the result.
Roadside breathalyzer tests are technically optional, as per Washington Administrative Code 448-15-030. This is referred to as a Preliminary Breath Test or PBT, wherein the driver is within his or her legal right to refuse.
However, after you refuse a breathalyzer test, you will most likely be taken into custody on suspicion of driving under the influence for your official BAC test.
This second BAC test is absolutely not optional in any way, shape, or form. After entering police custody, you must submit to a mandatory BAC test conducted at the police station within two hours of your arrest or detainment.
What Is the Penalty for Refusing a Breathalyzer Test?
What happens if you still refuse?
Mandatory breathalyzer refusal, covered under Washington state’s “implied consent law” RCW 46.20.308, will result in a license suspension for at least one year in addition to further suspensions related to the DUI charge itself. If your license is suspended under these terms, you may have a hearing within 20 days. Failure to appear at this hearing makes the suspension automatic and irrevocable.
If you refuse a mandatory BAC test upon arrest or detainment, you will instead be subjected to a blood draw test. The police will simply obtain a warrant and a medical professional will draw your blood – more likely at a local hospital where you will be placed in restraints.
Not only is this situation both embarrassing and detrimental to your case, but patients at the hospital for emergencies will have to wait for you to get your blood drawn because you didn’t submit to the breath test. If you still don’t comply with the court-ordered medical blood draw, you’ll receive additional contempt charges. Further refusal at this point will result in blood drawn by force.
Furthermore, your license can be suspended an additional ninety days if your BAC is found to surpass the legal limit of .08, and/or the THC content in your blood exceeds the legal limit of 5.00 nanograms per milliliter.
Your Spokane, Washington DUI lawyer will certainly have a challenging road ahead if you make it that far.
What Happens to Your DUI Case After You Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?
The entire point behind hiring a DUI attorney is to receive a more favorable outcome when facing DUI charges, right?
What will happen to your case if you refuse a breathalyzer test? Is there a penalty for refusing a breathalyzer test?
For starters, you might as well kiss any light sentencing or favorable court rulings goodbye.
Your DUI lawyer will have a very challenging time negotiating with the prosecutor for lighter penalties in terms of:
- License suspension
- Mandatory drug and alcohol counseling
- Mandatory ignition interlock devices
- Jail time
- Other court costs
And you can forget about the judge agreeing to any lighter sentencing recommendations from your DUI lawyer. In other words, it makes you appear to have a wanton disregard for the state’s DUI laws which will not bode well for you. Your refusal to comply will be noted in your arrest report for the prosecuting attorney to see and can be used as evidence against you in a criminal trial.
Having this information in your arrest report will make securing a favorable outcome much more difficult for your DUI lawyer.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, it’s not a good idea to refuse a breathalyzer. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t even an option.
You can refuse the optional roadside preliminary test, but any refusal after that could bring very serious consequences – and your Spokane, Washington DUI lawyer will not be thrilled. If you have more questions regarding your DUI arrest, contact Bugbee Law Offices for a free consultation today.