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What Happens if I Refuse to Take a Chemical Test During a DUI Stop?



Driving under the influence (DUI) charges are stressful for defendants. They fear the penalties in zero-tolerance stringent jurisdictions. The criminal charges associated with the offense, which typically result from a traffic stop, are unanticipated. This type of criminal offense is not something for which a defendant plans. The driver defendant often feels badly from making a poor or impaired split-second decision with lasting repercussions and impacts.

Clear Thinking During a DUI Traffic Stop Is a Challenge

During the actual traffic stop, clear, orderly, and prudent decision-making may seem impossible. This is particularly true if that defendant is impaired from alcohol or drug consumption. This is also true for a defendant caught off-guard and who has never experienced a traffic stop before, let alone anything related to a drunk driving or criminal offense. With the onslaught of legal television programs on all major networks over the last decades, it is no wonder more are not trying to play amateur attorney in such situations and second guess the best course of conduct. So, how is a defendant to decide whether to submit to a chemical test administered by police during a DUI stop? How should a driver approach the DUI stop to minimize damage, harmful evidence, and resulting penalties?

What Penalties Does a Defendant Face for Refusing a Chemical Test?

There are several penalties that result when a defendant refuses to submit to administration of a chemical test by law enforcement:

  • The DUI suspect will receive a suspension of his or her driver's license for one year. This is instead of the standard four-month suspension for DUI stops.
  • If it is the defendant's second DUI office in the last decade, the driver's license will be suspended for two years.
  • Work-restricted license is an option for those suspects found guilty of the DUI offense in typical scenarios. However, work-restricted license alternative is unavailable for those refusing chemical tests.
  • If the complaint written by the police officer against the defendant contains mention of chemical test refusal, then a jail sentence is a mandatory punitive component.
  • The criminal court judge and any jury may consider a defendant's refusal to take a chemical test as an admission of guilt. It is true that a defendant's attorney could suggest other motivations for the refusal, such as a fear of needles or inability to register results on a breathalyzer.

Given High Stakes for Refusal of a Chemical Test, Should It Be Done?

Of course, a defendant can always refuse to submit to administration of a chemical test as a result of a DUI traffic stop, even though some defendants may not realize they have the option of refusal. Some may be too anxious, nervous, or panicked to exercise the option to refuse the test, even if they know or recall they have such an option. No matter what, a defendant who refuses to submit to a chemical test should be aware of heightened penalties associated with making this election. It is a decision not to be made impulsively without consideration of impacts and ramifications.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI offense, it is prudent to consult with a criminal defense attorney, criminal law attorney, traffic attorney, or DUI attorney as soon as possible. The results of the offense might be able to be minimized with assistance of legal counsel and use of successful, merited defenses. This is true whether defendant is a first-time offender or repeat defendant.