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Can You Refuse A Breathalyzer Test In California?

Posted in DUI on December 28, 2020

If a police officer pulls somebody over because they suspect alcohol impairment, there are likely various steps that the law enforcement official will ask the alleged drunk driver to go through. In general, this will include being asked to step out of the vehicle and participate in various field sobriety tests. This could also include being asked to submit to a breathalyzer test. Most people have wondered whether or not they are able to refuse a breathalyzer test if asked to submit to one by law enforcement officials. Here, we want to discuss how California laws handle breathalyzer tests and the penalties for failing to submit to one. Each case is unique and different laws may apply to your charges, it is recommended to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

California implied consent laws

Under California law, there is something called “implied consent.” This requires that all drivers who are lawfully arrested for driving under the influence submit to some sort of chemical testing to determine their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level.

Notice that implied consent only applies after a person has been lawfully arrested. In order for a DUI arrest to be lawful in California, the officer must have probable cause to believe that a person has been driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. State law typically allows for a driver to choose between a blood test or a breath test (or a urine test in some circumstances). Additionally, the arresting officer is required to explain the consequences of refusing a test to the alleged impaired driver.

Drivers are not required to submit to chemical testing prior to a lawful arrest. That said, when working to establish probable cause, a police officer may ask a person to take a voluntary “preliminary alcohol screening” (PAS) test. This is the test that is usually administered with a handheld breath test device. Again, drivers are not required to submit to a pre-lawful arrest breathalyzer test, though it is very likely that refusal to submit to a test will result in a lawful arrest.

Penalties for refusing a DUI test in California

If a driver refuses to take a chemical test to determine their blood alcohol concentration level after a lawful arrest for suspected DUI, their license will immediately be suspended for one year. A second refusal of a test, or the refusal of a person who has a reckless driving or DUI conviction within the last ten years, will result in an automatic two-year license suspension. The penalty will jump to a three-year suspension for a third refusal or if a person has had more than one reckless driving or DUI conviction within the last ten years.

Regardless of how many times a person has refused a breath test, they will be fined $125 per post-lawful arrest refusal. Additionally, a person may face a mandatory jail sentence if they are convicted after refusing to submit to a lawful blood alcohol content test.

How can an attorney help with my DUI case?

If you or somebody you love has been arrested and charged with DUI, your first step needs to be contacting an attorney who can help with your case. A skilled Riverside DUI attorney will be able to use their resources and legal expertise to obtain all evidence being used against you, analyze the evidence, and work to resolve the case in the best way possible on your behalf. Your attorney will work diligently to get the charges dismissed or reduced based on the facts pertaining to your particular case.