Driving while impaired by alcohol or any other controlled substance is not just dangerous but also illegal. Nevertheless, countless people do just that, putting their lives and those of others at risk when they get behind the wheel. Law enforcement officials have turned to DUI checkpoints and various other enforcement measures to tackle drunk driving.
Sobriety checks and breathalyzer testing can seem like a hassle or even an infringement upon your rights. However, refusing these tests could carry some serious consequences. The following goes in-depth about the potential perils of refusing a DUI test and what can be done from a legal standpoint.
You Could Lose Your License
You may have heard of the saying "driving is a privilege, not a right." As far as the law is concerned, that's absolutely correct; having the ability to drive your vehicle as a licensed driver is considered a privilege. This often comes as a surprise to those who see their ability to drive as a necessity and a hard-earned right.
In exchange for the privilege of being a licensed driver, you automatically agree to undergo DUI testing to determine your level of impairment, as per your state's "implied consent" laws. If you refuse to submit to DUI testing, you'll lose your driving privileges for as long as your state deems appropriate. Some states will suspend your license for 90 days for your first refusal, while others impose a lifetime loss of driving privileges for multiple refusals.
A license suspension due to your refusal to submit to DUI testing is considered a separate administrative punishment in most jurisdictions. If you are convicted of a DUI or DWI charge, you'll likely receive an additional suspension of your driving privileges in addition to any previously received penalties.
You Could Face Jail Time
In many cases, refusing a DUI test could mean more than losing your license. In addition to a loss of driving privileges, you could also face criminal penalties for refusing to undergo DUI testing. Police officers on the scene can place you under arrest for suspicion of DUI or DWI based on their own observation, along with any available witness testimony and other evidence. The amount of time you could spend behind bars simply for refusing a DUI test depends based on your state's statutes.
Not every refusal ends with a trip to the local lockup. Refusing a standardized field sobriety test or a warrantless blood test rarely results in an arrest. Refusing a breathalyzer test, on the other hand, could come with criminal penalties.
You Could Be Compelled to Take a Blood Test
If you refuse breathalyzer testing and end up in custody because of your refusal, you could be compelled to have a sample of your blood drawn and tested for blood alcohol content (BAC). Blood samples are typically regarded as being more accurate than standard breathalyzer testing, but errors in handling and testing can easily affect test results.
Blood samples are usually performed by a trained nurse or paramedic in a hospital or health clinic setting, although it's not unusual for samples to be taken at the police station. The sample may be tested on-site or shipped to an outside laboratory for further analysis.
Law enforcement officials must obtain a warrant before they're able to draw blood samples for BAC testing. The advent of electronic warrants has helped speed up what was once a time-consuming process for police officers. Instead of waiting for a hand-written warrant and running the risk of a driver's BAC level dissipating as the hours pass, officers can contact an on-call judge and have a warrant electronically produced and printed within minutes.
If you've been charged with a DUI, reach out to a DUI lawyer for guidance.