Nobody wants to get pulled over by the police on their way home, and that’s especially true when you’re coming home from a restaurant or a bar where you’ve had a few drinks.
One thing is for certain: If the officer thinks that you’re impaired, it won’t take you long to figure it out. Officers use a variety of methods to decide if a driver is intoxicated, including a chemical breath test that’s designed to measure your blood alcohol content (BAC).
Can you refuse this test? If so, should you refuse it? Here’s what you need to know:
There are two different breath tests you may face
Every state has some version of “implied consent” law on its books, which means that a driver gives implicit consent to chemical testing for drugs or alcohol as a condition of being granted a license to drive in the first place. However, Virginia is somewhat unique in that you are not legally required to submit to a Breathalyzer unless you’ve already been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI).
This doesn’t stop officers from trying to make use of what’s called a “preliminary breath test” at the side of the road – and heavily implying that you don’t really have any option but to comply with their request.
You do not legally have to take that test, and you probably shouldn’t – even if you know that the officer intends to arrest you if you refuse. Those devices are often inaccurate, and they only serve to build a case against you.
If you are arrested, you’ll be taken to a police station and asked to take a different breath test within three hours. This test is legally required. If you refuse to comply, you will not only likely be charged with a DUI, but you’ll also be charged with violating the state’s implied consent law. That means:
- For your first refusal, your license will be suspended for a year, even if you aren’t convicted of a DUI.
- For a second or subsequent refusal, you face a three-year license suspension, up to a year in jail and a hefty fine.
It’s important to understand that even if you fail a Breathalyzer test, that doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll be convicted. There are a myriad of potential defenses available. If you’ve been charged with driving under the influence in Virginia, find out more about your legal options.