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Should I refuse a breathalyzer or field sobriety test?

March 21, 2024 Uncategorized

Refusing Breath and Field Tests for DUI

When pulled over on suspicion of DUI, the officer will likely request you take a breathalyzer or perform field sobriety tests. You do have the right to refuse, but there are pros and cons to consider before making your decision.

Breathalyzer Refusal

All states have implied consent laws requiring drivers to submit to BAC testing if lawfully arrested for DUI. Still, you can refuse the breathalyzer, with the following potential consequences:

Pros

  • No breath test evidence for prosecutors to use against you
  • Chance police won’t have enough evidence for DUI conviction without the breath result
  • Breath tests aren’t always accurate – machine defects, improper use, medical conditions can affect results

Cons

  • License will be suspended for refusing, often for 1 year or more
  • Refusal can be used against you as evidence of guilt at trial
  • Police may obtain warrant for blood test if breathalyzer is refused, leaving you with no choice
  • A prior refusal makes penalties worse if convicted again

Overall, first time offenders have a stronger case for refusing the breath test. But those with prior DUIs may face longer license suspensions if convicted without providing BAC evidence. Discuss your case with a DUI lawyer before deciding.

Field Sobriety Test Refusal

Unlike a breath test, you have an absolute right to refuse field sobriety tests in all states. But declining comes with pros and cons:

Pros

  • No video evidence of your performance for prosecutors to use
  • Avoids potentially incriminating mistakes on highly subjective FSTs
  • Medical conditions, nerves, weather, terrain can impact FST performance even when sober

Cons

  • Refusal can be used against you as evidence of impairment or guilt
  • May anger the officer and motivate them to be more aggressive
  • Officer can still arrest you based on driving pattern, appearance, demeanor, odor

In general, first time offenders have a stronger case for refusing field tests. Veterans with prior DUIs on record may not benefit as much from refusing since evidence of impairment already exists.

What Happens If You Refuse?

When you refuse the tests, the officer will likely:

  • Note your refusal in the police report
  • Proceed with arresting you if they feel there is probable cause based on your appearance, actions, driving, etc.
  • Confiscate your driver’s license and issue you a temporary driving permit
  • Impound your vehicle

After your release, you will be mailed a notice of suspension or revocation for any test refusal. This starts the timeline for appealing the suspension and requesting a hearing.

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Should I Refuse Both Tests?

While you can legally refuse both the breath and field tests, doing so means prosecutors will lack chemical BAC evidence and video of your impairment. This may significantly weaken their case against you, especially for first time offenders. However, test refusal also hands them evidence you declined because you knew you would fail.

Those with prior DUIs may benefit less from refusing both, since prosecutors can show a pattern of behavior. Overall, while refusing both tests may seem helpful, having experienced legal counsel is critical to guide you based on your specific case.

What If I Initially Consent Then Change My Mind?

In some states, once you consent to a breath or blood test, you cannot later revoke consent. However, you can still refuse field sobriety tests at any time, even if you initially agreed. There is no penalty for starting but refusing to finish FSTs.

But in other states, you may be able to withdraw consent for BAC testing as long as the test hasn’t begun yet. Jurisdictions vary, so check your state laws. Still, withdrawing consent once given may anger the officer.

Should I Perform the Tests if Requested?

If you are unsure whether to refuse, it may be best to politely comply if asked to perform field tests and take a breathalyzer. While incriminating evidence could result, full compliance shows you have nothing to hide. If you pass both tests, the officer may let you go rather than wrongly arresting a sober driver.

Compliance also avoids punishment for refusal and removes a potential reason the officer may have arrested you. Just because you comply does not mean prosecutors will have an airtight case either – there are still ways to fight the results in court later on.

How to Politely Refuse

If you do decline testing, firmly but politely state your refusal and that you do not wish to answer further questions. Avoid arguing or acting belligerent, but don’t give excuses. Simply state you are exercising your rights and decline to elaborate further.

Also avoid performing any maneuvers like standing on one leg or walking a line, as officers may claim you did poorly on “tests” you didn’t formally consent to.

Repercussions Besides a DUI

Even if your refusal results in charges being dropped, you can still face serious consequences like:

  • License suspension – periods range from 6 months to 3 years depending on your record
  • Ignition interlock requirement – may be needed for license reinstatement even without conviction
  • Refusal admissibility – prosecutor can mention your refusal at trial as evidence of guilt
  • Employment issues – commercial drivers especially face CDL disqualification for refusing

So while refusal may beat the DUI, there are still steep penalties in some cases. An attorney can help minimize the fallout.

Should I Refuse?

There are reasonable cases for consenting or declining. But given the complexities, never decide on the spot. Politely refuse if asked, then consult with a DUI lawyer immediately about the best legal strategy for your unique case.

 

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