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What Happens If I Refuse a Chemical Test?

Imagine the following situation: you’ve been pulled over for driving erratically. The officer suspects you of DUI and tells you to take a Breathalyzer test. While you’re sure you’re not drunk, you have had a drink that evening—you’re not sure if the results would necessarily be in your favor. As a result, rather than risk a DUI conviction, you refuse to take the test.

What happens then?

Well, according to the California Vehicle Code, the officer will have the right to arrest you, suspend your license for up to a year, and fine you at least $125 for the refusal. Why do they have the right to do that? You carry a contract in your pocket that gives them permission (from you) to do so: your California-issued driver’s license.

California, like many other states, imposes an Implied Consent Law on all licensed drivers. That means when you applied for a license, you were consenting to having your blood, urine, or breath tested for BAC (blood alcohol content) whenever an officer has reason to suspect DUI. Refusal is not within your rights.

There are usually two breathalyzer tests: the roadside test and the desktop test. Even if you refuse to take the test while pulled over on the side of the road, the officer has the right to take you to the station to take a desktop breathalyzer test. That, or take you to a substation with a clinic to allow a blood or urine test (the actual test you take is up to you). It is for refusing this test that people receive license suspensions.

If you have past violations on your record, refusal will carry harsher suspension penalties. For a single past violation, refusal will carry a 2-year suspension of driving privileges. Additional past violations in the last 10 years will result in a 3-year suspension.

I’ve Failed a DUI Breath Test—What Can I Do?

If you’ve failed a breath test, you will be subjected to at least 96 hours in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. However, that does not mean you have been convicted. In fact, breath test results have been successfully challenged many times before for a variety of reasons.

Breath tests can be challenged on grounds of:

  • Improper procedure
  • Presence of “false positive” chemicals
  • The defendant’s breathing ability
  • Poor calibration of the breathalyzer
  • And more

If you’re facing DUI charges, no matter how hopeless the circumstances seem, you need to call a defense attorney. We can hear you out in a free legal consultation and present you with all your options. There may be a chance to defend your record and your freedom if you call soon enough. If you’ve been charged in Sonoma County, call our Santa Rosa DUI lawyer at the Law Offices of Evan E. Zelig today. We can be reached online or by calling (707) 418-5352 today.