The Legal Ramifications of Refusing a Breathalyzer Test in a DUI Stop

Posted: March 15, 2024 at 12:00 am
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) is a serious offense with potentially severe consequences; and one crucial aspect of a DUI arrest is the breathalyzer test, which measures blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Refusing this test might seem like a way to avoid a conviction, but you need to understand what will likely happen if you do. A DUI lawyer in Johnson County, KS can tell you that it’s almost always best to submit to such a test at a DUI stop.

Ask a DUI Lawyer in Johnson County, KS: The Legal Ramifications of Refusing a Breathalyzer Test in a DUI Stop

Kansas has an “implied consent” law which essentially states that by obtaining a driver’s license, you automatically agree to submit to a chemical test (breath, blood, or urine) if a police officer has probable cause to believe you are driving under the influence. Refusing to take a breathalyzer when requested is a violation of this implied agreement, and while you can refuse, the consequences for doing so are serious. You cannot be charged with a crime for doing it, but the state can (and will) impose other penalties, and your refusal will be used against you to attempt to convict you of a DUI.

Driver’s License Suspension

The most immediate consequence of refusing a breathalyzer test is an automatic administrative license suspension for one year. This suspension occurs independently of any criminal DUI charges you might face, and, if you refuse the breathalyzer test, you’ll still lose your driving privileges even if you’re later found not guilty of DUI in court. For the following two to ten years, you’ll be allowed to drive only with an interlock device installed on your car.
The process for an administrative suspension is usually swift. Your license may be confiscated on the spot by the arresting officer. You’ll soon receive paperwork outlining the reasons for the suspension and will have a short window of time to request a hearing to challenge it. These hearings are separate from your DUI case, and you will want a lawyer to help you right away to have any hope of retaining your license.

Evidence in a DUI Trial

While refusing a breathalyzer prevents the prosecution from obtaining a BAC reading on the spot, it doesn’t mean they can’t build a DUI case against you. In fact, your refusal itself can be used as evidence of your consciousness of guilt in a court of law. Prosecutors may argue that your refusal demonstrates an awareness that you were intoxicated and were trying to conceal that fact.

They can still present other evidence to support their case, such as testimony from the officer about slurred speech, impaired coordination, bloodshot eyes, odor of alcohol, and your overall behavior. They may also try to use field sobriety test results. Performance on tests like the one-leg stand or walk-and-turn can be used as indicators of impairment.

Grounds for a Warrant

If you refuse to take a breathalyzer test, the police may be able to use this quickly as grounds to get a warrant for a blood test. Once they have this warrant in hand, they can test you whether you agree or not. They can force you to give blood for the test, and will, and none of this makes it easier to defend yourself in court against DUI charges. 

Enhanced Penalties for Refusal

In addition to license suspension and its use as evidence against you, refusing a breathalyzer test often leads to harsher penalties if you are later convicted of DUI. You may end up with larger fines, a longer jail sentence, and mandatory alcohol education or treatment programs if you refuse testing. 
The rationale behind these enhanced penalties is two-fold. First, they act as a deterrent, discouraging drivers from attempting to circumvent the system. Second, they reflect the assumption that individuals who refuse testing likely did so because they knew they were guilty and thus they present a greater risk on the road.

The Right to an Attorney

While the consequences of refusing a breathalyzer test are substantial, and in most cases it’s best to submit, you do have the right to refuse (understanding the consequences that will follow), and more importantly, you also have the right to consult with an attorney. An experienced DUI lawyer in Johnson County, KS can advise you on the best course of action based on the specific circumstances of your arrest, assess the strength of the evidence against you, explain the potential ramifications of refusal, and help you understand best how to defend yourself.

Contesting a Breathalyzer Result

Arguing a Lack of Probable Cause

If the officer didn’t have a legitimate reason to pull you over or to suspect you of DUI, this can be a powerful defense, and we will explore it as a possibility. Challenges to the validity of the traffic stop could undermine the entire arrest.

Improperly Administered Test

If the breathalyzer device was not calibrated correctly, or the officer did not follow proper procedures when administering the test, this can be used to defend you. We’ll look into how the device was used and maintained to see if a possible defense can be mounted here.

Certain Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions or medications can sometimes affect breathalyzer readings, potentially leading to false positives. We’ll work with you to uncover whether this might be a possible defense in your case.

Violation of Rights

If your implied consent rights were not clearly explained, or you were coerced into refusing the test, you may have a possible defense.

Factors to Consider Before Refusing a Breathalyzer Test

The decision of whether to submit to a breathalyzer test is a personal one with far-reaching consequences. Refusing a test undoubtedly carries risks, and it will lead to immediate license suspension, it can be used against you in court, and it could result in harsher penalties if the prosecution is successful in convicting you of a DUI.

It’s important to understand that the repercussions of a DUI conviction itself can be severe and long-lasting, and if you are impaired and know that a conviction would be likely, refusing the test could make things worse and incline the court not to offer any leniency.

Don’t Try to Defend Yourself Alone

DUI law in Kansas is hard to beat, and dealing with a breathalyzer test refusal requires the expertise of a qualified DUI defense attorney who can protect and defend you. An attorney can thoroughly analyze your case, explain your rights, and develop a personalized defense strategy aimed that will get you the best possible outcome for your situation. We may work to question the validity of the traffic stop, the grounds for your arrest, the accuracy of test results, or the suspension of your driver’s license, among other defenses. We can also help you explore alternative sentence options that might be available to you.

If you’ve been arrested for DUI in Kansas, contact us at Henderson Legal Defense, LLC right away for help. With our extensive experience defending DUI cases, we’ll ensure your rights are protected and work to minimize the impact of your charges. Call us today for a confidential consultation.