If the police suspect you of DUI, you will be pulled over and asked to take a field sobriety test (FST). An FST is a series of physical and cognitive tests administered to a DUI suspect by the police to provide evidence of impairment.
A FST is not enough to prove intoxication or lack thereof. It only acts as a guide that advises the arresting officer on whether to conduct chemical tests for impairment.
Chemical Test Options
Commonly administered chemical tests are breath, blood, or urine tests that can be conducted at the scene of the arrest or a police station. These tests determine the amount of alcohol in the body and act as solid proof of intoxication.
The allowable blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 percent for drivers aged 21 and above and 0.01 for drivers under 21. If you are a commercial vehicle driver, the allowable limit is much lower than for non-commercial drivers at 0.04 percent.
You do not have to take an alcohol or a blood test if you do not want to. But, failing to take the tests can land you into problems that include jail time, fines, or license suspension.
Implied Consent Laws
All states in the US have “implied consent laws,” with New York being the first state to enact such laws in 1953. By 1972, all states had a version of implied consent laws. Implied consent laws state that a driver consents to be subjected to an alcohol test the moment they get behind the wheel.
The laws also stipulate the legal consequences of failing to take the test. These laws apply differently in different states. Some states allow the driver to choose the option of an alcohol test. In such states, the arresting officer cannot dictate the option to administer. If they dictate the option, you have a right to say no, and your rejection of the test cannot be used against you.
Other states allow the arresting officer to choose the option to administer to a DUI suspect. In such states, refusing to take the test recommended by the officer can have you facing charges.
Consequences of Refusing an Alcohol Test
Taking an alcohol test while impaired can get you in trouble because it means the prosecution will have all the evidence they need to get a conviction.
“If you think you can avoid giving the police the evidence they need by refusing to take a test will save you, you’re mistaking. The prosecution can use your refusal to take a test in court, which may influence the jury’s or the judge’s decision-making,” says Chad Shelton of South Carolina Criminal Law.
If found guilty of refusing to take a test, you may face penalties such as license suspension, fines, and having to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. These penalties come on top of penalties for DUI since refusal to take an alcohol test doesn’t mean that you get off the hook for DUI.
If you get a conviction for DUI in a case where you refused to take an alcohol test, you could face several months of license suspension for the DUI and other months for refusal to take a test. So, if you are charged with refusal to take a chemical test after a DUI stop, it is best to talk to a DUI attorney for help making the outcomes of your case favorable.