Refusing a Breathalyzer Test: What is Implied Consent?
Most states require drivers to undergo chemical tests to determine their blood alcohol content when they are suspected of driving under the influence.
If you're suspected of operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, it's likely that you will be asked to submit to a breathalyzer.
Most states have harsh penalties for those who refuse a breathalyzer test. In some cases, there are penalties for refusing a breathalyzer that are separate from any conviction of a DUI offense.
If you refused a breathalyzer test during a recent DUI stop, speak with a DUI lawyer about your options.
You may still be convicted of a DUI even if you refused to submit to a breath test.
Penalties for Refusing a Breathalyzer
According to the most recent data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the rate of refusal nationwide was about 25%, with one state's refusal rate at 81%.
Since the statistics were published, several states have revised or enacted laws to provide for stricter DUI penalties for blood alcohol content test and breathalyzer refusal.
More than 20 states have additional civil or criminal penalties for blood alcohol content test or breathalyzer refusal.
These states want to make the cost of a refusal high enough to force compliance with breathalyzer or blood alcohol content test requirements.
The penalties include fines, insurance surcharges, suspension or revocation of vehicle registration, jail time and enhanced penalties for drivers who refuse the breathalyzer or blood alcohol test and are convicted of DUI.
State Penalties for Breathalyzer Test Refusal
Alaska, Minnesota and Nebraska DUI laws provide for jail time for first offense refusals.
With California and Vermont DUI laws, drivers who refuse the chemical test can be sentenced to jail terms if they've previously been convicted of DUI. In Vermont, the sentence can be as long as two years.
Under certain circumstances, fines for refusals reach as high as $10,000, not including court costs and increased insurance rates. In New Jersey, there's a $3,000 insurance surcharge for a first offense refusal, and that number increases with subsequent offenses.
Both New Jersey and Rhode Island DUI laws require participation in an alcohol treatment program for blood or breathalyzer test refusal.
Can I Still Get Convicted After Refusing?
Despite what you may have heard, drivers who refuse breathalyzer tests or chemical tests are convicted all the time.
Other evidence such as the smell of alcohol, erratic driving, failure of field sobriety tests, the officer's observations of your speech and demeanor, witness testimony or the presence of open alcohol or empty alcohol containers in your vehicle can be used against you in court.
In other words, the results of a breathalyzer test are only one piece of evidence that can be used against you.
If you've been charged with DUI and refused a chemical test, or if you've been charged with a chemical test refusal, talk to a DUI attorney in your state. You should learn as much information as you can about the law before appearing in court.
The above summary of breathalyzer refusal penalties is by no means all-inclusive and is not legal advice. Laws may have changed since our last update. For the latest information on DUI laws, speak to a local DUI lawyer in your state.