What Happens if You Refuse a Breath Test in an Arizona DUI Traffic Stop?

One of the biggest fears for most motorists is seeing the red-and-blue lights of a police officer’s patrol car flick on in their rear-view mirror. While the process of getting pulled over is stressful for anyone, this is especially the case for those who have had a drink or two. For many motorists, the thought of refusing a breath test crosses their mind. However, there is a lot of misinformation when it comes to Arizona breath test refusals. In this post, we discuss what a refusal is, and its legal significance.

Arizona has what is called an “implied consent” law. Under this law, motorists agree to submit to a breath test when they are pulled over by a police officer, and the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that they are intoxicated. Of course, a police officer cannot physically force someone to take a breath test. So, motorists always have the ability (not necessarily the right) to refuse a test.

When someone refuses an Arizona breath test, that starts a series of events in motion that cannot be undone. As soon as someone refuses a breath test, the officer will take their driver’s license, and their driving privileges will be suspended. The length of the suspension will depend on how many times the driver has refused in the past:

  • First refusal – One-year license suspension
  • Second refusal (within seven years) – Two-year license suspension
  • Third-refusal (within seven years) – Two-year license suspension

Even if someone changes their mind seconds later, the consequences of a refusal will remain in place. However, motorists will be given a temporary driving permit that will remain valid for 15 days. During this period, the motorist can challenge their license suspension. Drivers who need a license for work or school may be able to get their license back after 90 days, provided they install an ignition interlock in their car. Of course, the installation and monthly maintenance costs of these devices are quite high.

Refusing a breath test does not mean that the state cannot prosecute someone for drunk driving. While the prosecution in these cases will not have the results of any chemical tests, they will proceed with circumstantial evidence of intoxication. For example, the following facts may be used to argue that a driver was intoxicated:

  • The motorist was driving erratically, or got into an accident;
  • The driver exhibited signs of intoxication, such as watery eyes or slurred speech;
  • The officer smelled alcohol on the driver’s breath;
  • The driver was unsteady on their feet;
  • There was an open container of alcohol in the car; or
  • The driver admitted to consuming alcohol.

There are, however, defenses to Arizona DUI refusals, and anyone who is facing a refusal case should consult with a dedicated attorney as soon as possible.

Have You Been Arrested for an Arizona DUI Offense?

If you have recently been arrested for drunk driving in Arizona, contact Attorney James E. Novak for immediate assistance. Attorney Novak is a veteran Tempe DUI defense attorney with decades of hands-on experience defending clients in every type of DUI case. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, call 480-413-1499 today.

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