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Can You Refuse a Breathalyzer?

Should the police stop you for suspected DUI, they will likely request that you undergo an immediate breathalyzer test, which measures the blood alcohol content (BAC) in your breath. The preliminary breath test (PBT), a small handheld device, conducts this test. The police station will conduct another test on a larger device to measure your BAC again. While it is not illegal to refuse the PBT on the street, there may be extra consequences for refusing the test at the police station, in addition to the penalties for a DUI conviction.

Consequences of Refusing a Preliminary Breath Test Before a DUI Arrest

In Virginia, an officer can arrest you for DUI without requiring you to take a preliminary breath test (PBT) on the street. The officer uses the voluntary test, similar to a field sobriety test, to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest.

If you decline the test and subsequently face a DUI arrest, the police cannot use your refusal before the arrest against you. However, the police can still arrest you for DUI if they have other reasons to believe you are intoxicated.

Penalties for Refusing a Breathalyzer Test Under Virginia’s Implied Consent Law

According to Virginia’s Implied Consent Law, found in Virginia Code § 18.2-268.2, when you drive, you agree to take a breathalyzer or blood test if you are arrested for DUI. This applies to the breathalyzer test at the police station. The officer must explain the requirement to take the test and the penalties for refusing it when they arrest you for DUI.

Refusing to take a breathalyzer or blood test for the first time is a civil offense under Virginia Code § 18.2-268.3. The Implied Consent Law has the following penalties:

  • First offense: Your driver’s license will be automatically suspended for one year with no possibility of a restricted license. This is in addition to any suspension from a DUI conviction.
  • Subsequent offenses: A second or third refusal is charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor. Your driver’s license will be suspended for three years, and you may face jail time and a large fine.

Without the results of a breathalyzer or blood test, a DUI conviction is still possible.Even if you refuse to take the breathalyzer or blood test, our experienced DUI lawyers in Northern Virginia or Maryland can help you build a strong defense. To learn more about your defense options and what to expect in your case, contact the KGO Law Firm to schedule a free initial consultation.