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Can I refuse a breathalyzer test?

On Behalf of | Aug 9, 2023 | Drunk Driving |

If you are pulled over for suspected drunk driving in Newport Beach you may wonder if you can refuse to take a breathalyzer test. The answer is not simple, as there are different types of breath tests and different consequences for refusing them.

Preliminary alcohol screening

The first type of breath test is the preliminary alcohol screening test. This is a handheld device that the officer may ask you to blow into before arresting you. The PAS test is used to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest, but it is not mandatory unless you are under 21 or on probation for a prior DUI. If you are over 21 and not on probation, you can politely decline the PAS test without any legal penalties.

Evidentiary breath test

The second type of breath test is the evidentiary breath test. This is a more accurate device that is administered at the police station or a checkpoint after you are arrested. The evidentiary breath test is mandatory if you are lawfully arrested for DUI. Refusing it will result in harsher penalties than taking it and failing.

These penalties include a one-year suspension of your driver’s license for a first offense, two years for a second offense and three years for a third or subsequent offense. You may also receive a longer jail sentence and higher fines than if you took the test and failed.

In addition, you could face the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device on your car for one year or more. Finally, a designation as a “refusal” on your criminal record, which may affect your employment, insurance and immigration status.

Should I refuse?

Refusing the evidentiary breath test is not advisable unless you have a valid medical reason or you believe the arrest was unlawful. Even then, you may still face the refusal penalties unless you can successfully challenge the arrest or the refusal in court. Finally, do not forget that you can ask for an attorney when you are arrested.