What happens if I refuse a Breathalyzer test in California?

When you see those blue and red flashing lights in your rearview mirror and hear the whoop of the police siren, you know the officer is pulling you over. Your heart may be pounding, especially if the scent of alcohol is still on your breath. You just know the officer is going to ask you to take a Breathalyzer test to determine if your body’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is above the legal limit. You may wonder if you can refuse to take the test at all. The answer is yes, but be warned that there are immediate consequences to refusing the test in California.

Like many states, California has adopted what are called “implied consent laws,” which make it mandatory for any driver in the state to submit to a test to determine if alcohol or drugs are in their body if they have been lawfully arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI). Implied consent laws are in place with the reasoning that driving is a privilege and not a right, and if you refuse to take the test, your driving privilege should be revoked for a serious period of time.

In California, actually, the police officer is supposed to ask you if you want to take a breath test or a blood test; and if a blood test is needed but can’t be taken, it’s also implied you have given your consent for a urine test.

The law says that if you refuse to take the required breath, blood or urine test, your driver’s license will be immediately suspended for one year. If you refuse the test and are later convicted of DUI, there will be a mandatory fine and jail time as well as the penalties for the offense itself. If your refusal happens within 10 years of a separate DUI violation, your license will be suspended for two years; and if it’s within 10 years of two or more other DUIs, the suspension will be three years.

Getting legal help

Just because you’re pulled over under suspicion of DUI, doesn’t mean you’ve committed a crime. You could be innocent of the charges, but regardless, it is a delicate situation. Don’t let the charges ruin your life and reputation. Talk to a skilled California defense lawyer who can fight for you and help you get the fairest treatment possible under the law.