You were stopped because the officer who pulled you over believes you were driving erratically. He or she asks if you had any alcoholic drinks. You know you’re probably over the legal limit, so you decide to ignore the officer’s request for a breath test to measure your blood alcohol content, which you know can be used against you later for driving while intoxicated. Now what? If you refuse to take a blood alcohol test in Louisiana, what happens next?
Do You Have to Take a Breathalyzer?
By simply driving on a Louisiana road or highway, you give your “implied consent” to blood, breath, or chemical testing to check your BAC should you be arrested for a DUI or DWI in Louisiana. You can always withdraw your consent and refuse to submit to testing, but your refusal of a breathalyzer can have serious implications. Such consequences include losing your driving privileges and even potential jail time.
Another option is refusing the roadside test and seeking a blood or breathalyzer test at the police station. This may be in your best interest if you have been arrested on suspicion of DUI/DWI. It is also in your best interest to contact an experienced Shreveport criminal defense attorney like those at the Greenwald Law Firm as soon as you’ve been charged.
Implied Consent Laws in Louisiana
There is an implied consent statute in Louisiana, as well as many other states, that you must be aware of. Essentially, this statute says that you agree to take a sobriety test if you are suspected of drunk driving and subsequently pulled over. This means that just by getting behind the wheel, you agree to the possibility of breath, blood, or urine testing. However, it’s important to remember that in order to require testing, an officer must first have probable cause to believe you were driving under the influence.
If you refuse to take a sobriety test, this typically means you will be arrested immediately. In addition, more fines and a license suspension are the consequence of refusing several tests in a row. On top of this, if it is found that you were driving with a BAC over the legal limit, a DUI charge will come with its own set of fines and punishments.
If you refuse a sobriety test, the police may also issue a search warrant. With or without your consent, they can do a blood test using this warrant (and use force, if necessary).
Should You Refuse a Breathalyzer?
If you’ve had a few drinks and think you’re close to the .08 BAC limit (.04 if driving a commercial vehicle), you may think you’d be better off declining the breathalyzer. After all, doing so provides police conclusive evidence that you were driving while inebriated as soon as you blow. With this evidence, there is limited legal leeway when a judge hears your case. Plus, you have every right to turn down a field sobriety test, which falls under your right to remain silent as protected by the Fifth Amendment. This includes refusing to provide information that incriminates you, whether verbal or written. Everything from refusing to answer questions to denying a search of your vehicle or person to refusing a sobriety test falls under this category.
However, keep in mind that whether you take the test or not, you risk having your Louisiana license revoked. It’s worth noting that prosecutors frequently present proof of your refusal of breathalyzer in court and argue that it is a sign of guilt. Additional jail time and fines are also possible if you have refused a BAC test two or more times in the past.
What Happens if You Refuse a Breathalyzer?
The laws regarding the refusal of breathalyzer (which can result in a minor fine) and refusing a blood, urine, or breath test at a police station or hospital (which can result in more severe penalties) are different in some states. However, rest assured that harsh consequences are a real possibility for the refusal of breathalyzer test.
Even if you aren’t under arrest just yet, refusal of breathalyzer is generally not a good idea because prosecutors can use other evidence acquired at the scene to pursue a potential DUI/DWI case. Evidence such as officer observations, witness testimony, or the findings of a field sobriety test may be applicable. Depending on where the traffic stop happened, your refusal may also be used against you in any future trial.
Penalty for Refusing to Take a Breath Test
You face automatic consequences if you refuse to take a blood-alcohol test. After your arrest, the officer reads an “Implied Consent Warning” to you. It explains Louisiana’s possible repercussions for refusing to test. After hearing the warning and refusing to accept it, the negative repercussions become very real, very quickly.
One likely penalty is the suspension of your driving privileges. A one-year license suspension is imposed on drivers who refuse to take a blood alcohol test, a urine test, or a breathalyzer test. A two-year license suspension is imposed if a second or subsequent test refusal happens within ten years.
In some cases, the suspended motorist can request a limited license after installing an ignition interlock device (IID). That’s unless the alleged incident caused an injury or death. During the suspension time with the IID, this license allows the holder to drive, but with restrictions.
Another consequence is criminal prosecution. Criminal prosecution is on the table for a driver who refuses to take a breath test and has had two previous refusals, or who causes a fatality or significant physical injury. In a DUI/DWI case, the prosecutor can argue to the jury that the driver refused to test because he or she was inebriated, which may result in a guilty verdict. The driver faces fines of $300 to $1,000 and ten days to six months in jail if convicted.
To be eligible for probation, a driver must first spend at least 48 hours in jail, perform 32 hours of community service, go through a substance addiction program, and complete a driver improvement program.
Can You Refuse A Field Sobriety Test?
The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, the Walk and Turn Test, and the One Leg Stand Test are the three most common field sobriety tests used by Louisiana law enforcement personnel. However, these tests aren’t always accurate. A person can fail any or all of these tests without having been drinking or using drugs. A previous leg injury, for example, can make a person unstable on one leg. Additionally, an officer’s personal assessment isn’t always accurate.
That, in addition to the fact that agreeing to a field sobriety test may contribute extra evidence used to convict you, is why many people choose to deny a field sobriety test. An officer cannot force you to take these tests, so you may always politely decline if you do not wish to take one.
Know Your Rights. Contact Shreveport Criminal Defense Lawyer Joseph Greenwald, Jr. Today
If you refuse to take a blood alcohol test or are arrested and charged with a DUI, Shreveport criminal defense attorney Joseph Greenwald at Greenwald Law Firm is ready to assist you. His main goal is to help you maintain your driver’s license, insurance, and independence while working to get you out of legal trouble. Our Shreveport lawyers are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please contact us by phone at 318-219-7867 or via email for a free consultation to discuss your case.