Potential Consequences of Refusing a DC Breathalyzer Test

A person that provides a breath sample should know that a breathalyzer test taken at the police station can be used as evidence in court and could dictate a person’s sentence if the driver is convicted. A person who refuses a breathalyzer test cannot be charged with an additional crime or a separate crime for refusing. There are some states where a driver can be charged with driving under the influence and refusing to submit to a breath test as two separate offenses, but no such law exists in DC.

The potential consequences of refusing a breathalyzer test in DC may result in the driver receiving a prolonged license revocation period. Normally, in a first offense DUI case, a DC licensed driver would face a six-month revocation of their driving privileges. If the driver refuses a breath test, the refusal alone would make the person eligible for a mandatory one-year license revocation, even if their DUI case is dismissed or they are acquitted at trial.

It is also important to know that the DC Department of Motor Vehicles does not offer restricted licenses, limited licenses, or work permits in DUI cases.

Role of Implied Consent

The potential consequences of refusing or taking a DC breathalyzer test depend on the result of the breath test. DC has an implied consent law, which states that driving on DC roads constitutes consent to provide a breath sample to the police without the police being required to obtain a warrant. A driver that has been arrested can decline to submit to a breath test when asked, which constitutes withdrawing consent.

Taking a breathalyzer test can be incriminating for some drivers, which could impact the outcome of their case in court.  However, some people with no prior DUI arrests and a low level of impairment from alcohol may have a higher chance of being able to negotiate, through their defense lawyer, a favorable agreement with the prosecutor by providing a breath sample as opposed to refusing.

The only situation in which a driver would not be able to decline an alcohol test is if a DUI suspect got into a traffic accident that resulted in a serious injury. In that situation, if a person declines a breath test, they can be taken to the hospital and required by law to submit a blood sample. The police can obtain the results of the blood sample and use that as evidence against the driver.

Benefits of an Attorney

DUI cases can be complicated, even though many people think of them as traffic violations that can be resolved easily. There are a number of issues that can come up, procedurally, legally, and technically that can make DUI cases difficult. Thus, it is important to have a DUI lawyer who is experienced in the court in which the defendant will be appearing. DUI laws vary drastically from state to state so what may be easy to resolve in Maryland may be difficult to resolve in DC.

Taking or not taking a breathalyzer test can be a vexing decision that lawyers can only deal with after the fact. An attorney’s strategy with respect to the breath sample or lack thereof are decided on a case by case basis, because what may be advantageous to one driver who refuses a breath test may be harmful to another driver. Having a DUI lawyer who understands the nuances of the different levels of breath testing, how breath testing works, and how the prosecutor’s office deals with blood-alcohol content at different levels is vital in securing a favorable result in a DUI case.