The Implied Consent Law: Understanding the Basics

A cop with a breathalyzer
Attorney James Novak has helped countless clients throughout the greater Phoenix with criminal law issues, offering robust legal defense and counsel. His expertise in DUI defense and drunk driving law has led to reduced charges, dropped charges, and sound advice moving forward after a DUI.

Many of our clients have questions about "implied consent" and how it applies to their case. Let's go over the basics of this right now.

What Does "Implied Consent" Mean?

Basically, an implied consent law means that if a person receives a driver's license, he or she gives consent to submit to a field sobriety test or chemical test in order to determine intoxication. Simply by getting a license, you agree to take these sobriety tests under appropriate circumstances.

There are laws like this in states all across the country, and Arizona is no exception.

An Example of Implied Consent

Say you are driving home late on a Friday night and you are pulled over. The officer has a reasonable suspicion that you may be driving while under the influence. The officer may have seen a vehicle weave or change lanes erratically, or the officer may smell alcohol on a driver's breath upon asking for license and registration.

Implied consent means that the officer can ask you to submit to a sobriety test and that by having a driver's license you consent to taking said test or tests.

Implied Consent and Refusal to Take Sobriety Tests

While implied consent is a given when you receive a driver's license, a driver can refuse to submit to sobriety tests. Should that occur, however, you will be subject to harsher penalties upon arrest. The main penalty is that you will have to surrender your driver's license upon arrest and it will be suspended for at least a year.

If you are pulled over again for drunk driving and refuse a sobriety test again, your driver's license will be suspended for two years.

Should I Refuse a Sobriety Test?

Given the implied consent laws in this country, lawyers, law enforcement, and legal experts have debated this question at length over the years.

In many ways, refusing to take a field sobriety test does not help your case, and it's no guarantee that you will avoid a DUI conviction.

On the other hand, some DUI lawyers say that you should at least refuse to take the field sobriety test (which does not scientifically measure your BAC) and the breathalyzer test (which is an inaccurate assessment of alcohol in the bloodstream). Refusing to take a blood test upon arrest while at the station, however, will require you to surrender your license. Even if you refuse, officers can obtain a search warrant as a formality and then subject your to a blood test.

What You Should Do During a Traffic Stop

If you are pulled over and suspected of drunk driving, it's generally in your best interest to make the traffic stop as problem-free as possible. This means pulling over, turning off your vehicle, opening your windows, and keeping your hands on the wheel where the officer can see them. If there are passengers in the vehicle, ask them to remain silent and keep their hands visible.

When interacting with the officer, be polite and respectful, but do not admit to anything. Do not consent to vehicle searches since there is no search warrant, and avoid trying to talk your way out of the situation.

If asked to take a field sobriety test, you may refuse, though it's generally not in a driver's best interests to refuse a blood, breath, or urine test if asked to do so.

Learn More About Your Legal Rights in DUI Cases

For more information about your legal rights following a DUI arrest, it's important that you contact a skilled DUI and criminal defense lawyer today. Attorney James Novak will help you make smart choices when it comes to all of your legal options.

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