One question that I get asked a lot as a DUI lawyer is, “Can I refuse a breathalyzer test? And if so, should I?” Whether you consumed alcohol or not, if pulled over by a police officer and they ask you to take a breath test, you might wonder how you should respond. In many states, it is against the law to refuse a breath test, whether you have or have not been drinking. However, in the state of Connecticut, this is not the case.
Most states in America use implied consent laws in some way or another. Implied consent laws mean that because you have chosen to drive a vehicle, you have automatically consented to any urine, blood, or breath tests asked of you.
As soon as you sign for your driver’s license, you become subject to the implied consent laws. This means that in states that follow the implied consent laws, refusing a breath test or any other test will result in an automatic suspension of your license, whether you are guilty of driving under the influence or not.
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Standardized Field Sobriety Test Unreliability
While the police and prosecutors might treat field tests as the be all end all of DUI cases, the truth of the matter is that these tests are not 100% reliable. There are many factors that can impact the results of these tests. A few common issues include:
- Improper training of police regarding how to administer the tests.
- Other factors in driver (tired, emotionally distraught, overweight, injured, etc.) that might manifest as drunkenness.
- Issues with where the tests are being performed (ex. dim lighting, raining or snowing, uneven pavement, too close to shoulder of road, etc.) that could affect the results of the tests.
Refusing the Breathalyzer
While it is not illegal to refuse a breathalyzer test in Connecticut, the refusal will lead to more severe consequences. If you refuse to take the breathalyzer test, a first offense will result in a six month license suspension. Refusal upon a second offense will result in a license suspension of one year, and refusal upon a third incident will result in a three year license suspension.
If you are under the age of 18 and you refuse the breath test, the first suspension for refusal is 18 months, the second lasts for three years, and the third suspension will last for six years if you refuse the breath test. If you are under 21 but over the age of 18, a first time refusal will result in a license suspension of one year, a second time refusal will result in a suspension for two years, and a third refusal will result in a suspension of six years.
These are automatic suspensions based on refusal alone. However, in some cases you can obtain a work permit or education permit that allows you to drive to and from work or school. If convicted of a DUI, you will receive additional punishments such as fines, community service, and even jail time.
When pulled over and the officer suspects that you have consumed alcohol, they might ask you to take a breath test. If you choose to refuse the breath test, this will have consequences of its own. In the long run, you will probably face larger fines and a longer suspension of your license if you refuse to take the breath test. If you have questions about a specific situation, you can contact me for more personalized legal advice on taking breathalyzer tests.