Breathalyzer Test Refusal: What Are Your Rights and What Are the Consequences?

A driver taking a DUI breath test
A breathalyzer is a device that law enforcement uses to measure the amount of alcohol on a driver's breath. The breathalyzer works in a simple fashion. Drivers are asked to blow into a straw attached to the breathalyzer machine. The breath is analyzed and a read of alcohol content is provided to law enforcement. This is one of the ways that police can assess intoxication.

There are flaws with breath testing, however, and a Phoenix DUI defense attorney can help address them. Let's consider the problems with breath tests and then see whether or not you should refuse a breathalyzer test from a police officer.

Problems with Breath Tests to Assess Sobriety

While breathalyzers are simple, they are quite flawed. When it comes to drunk driving, it's important that the blood alcohol content (BAC) be measured, not the amount of alcohol on a person's breath. Since the breathalyzer cannot possibly measure actual BAC and instead notes concentration of alcohol in the breath, the results are inherently flawed with regard to measuring BAC.

Can I Refuse to Take a Breathalyzer Test?

Technically yes, you can refuse to take a breathalyzer test before an actual arrest is made. If you are arrested, you will then be asked to take a blood or urine test, which will likely be administered at the police station. You can continue to refuse to take chemical tests, but there are penalties for doing so.

Should I Refuse to Take a Breathalyzer Test?

The answer is usually no. The fact you "can" do something is not always the same as if you "should" do something.

Refusing to take a breathalyzer test might not be in your best interests. In fact, it may cause more problems than you anticipated. The state of Arizona has Implied Consent laws. Under these laws, anyone who is operating a vehicle at the time of a traffic stop can be subjected to some sort of chemical test to measure BAC.

The consequences of refusing a chemical test can sometimes be worse than a DUI charge.

Consequences for Refusing a Breathalyzer Test

If you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test or other chemical tests, there is a strict procedure that's followed.

Upon refusal to take a test, you will be placed under arrest and your driver's license will be confiscated from you. You will be issued a temporary driving permit good for 90 days. The arresting officer will make a sworn report detailing your refusal to take a chemical test.

Your driver's license will be suspended for at least 1 year for your refusal to take a test. After 90 days of license suspension, you can request the installation of an ignition interlock device, which is a mini-breathalyzer in your car. You vehicle will not be able to start unless the ignition interlock device has been blown into and demonstrates sobriety.

License Suspension for Chemical Test Refusal

The duration of license suspension varies depending on how many refusal offenses you have had within in 7-year period. The duration is as follows.

  • First Offense – 1-year suspension
  • Second Offense – 2-year suspension
  • Third Offense – 2-year suspension

Speak with an Experienced Drunk Driving Lawyer

For more information about your legal rights and options following a drunk driving charge, be sure to contact a skilled DUI and criminal defense attorney today. The team at The Law Office of James Novak is here to help you in your time of legal need.

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