The primary means to determine whether a driver is drunk while behind the wheel is the Breathalyzer test. It has been the subject of a lot of controversy, but it remains an important tool for police officers. Should you refuse to take the breath test on the side of the road? You’re within your rights to refuse, but there are some very good reasons to go ahead and comply with the officer’s instructions.
You May Refuse the PAS Test
First and most importantly, refusing to take the breath test doesn’t mean that you won’t go to jail. If the officer suspects that you’ve been drinking and driving, he or she has plenty of other ways to make an arrest stick. The breath test is really just another tool for determining how much you’ve had to drink. You can refuse the Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test if you are over 21 and do not have a prior conviction. In fact, I recommend that you do refuse this particular test. The PAS is not the same as the implied consent test.
Another good reason to just go ahead and take the actual breath test is this – you’ll be adding penalties to your situation if you refuse. In California, refusing to take a breath test carries significant penalties independent of your DUI. Just refusing to take the test means that you could have your license suspended for an entire year. You could also face a two-day stay in jail for refusal alone. So, it is within your rights to refuse, but the sheer number of complicating issues makes taking the test a no-brainer.
You’ve Already Agreed to Be Tested
You might not remember telling someone that you agreed to be tested either with chemical or breath testing if you’re suspected of a DUI, but if you have a valid California driver’s license, you have agreed. California is one of many US states with an implied consent law. Essentially, this law says that if you have a state-issued driver’s license, you have agreed to chemical and/or breath testing. You can expect the officer to make the case that you have already agreed to the PAS test because of this requirement, but in fact, that is untrue. It is wise to politely refuse the PAS test as long as you are over 21.
Help Your Attorney
Hopefully, you’ll be hiring an expert DUI attorney to represent you in court, rather than going it alone. Taking the roadside breath test can actually do your attorney some favors. Understand that the roadside test is not an actual Breathalyzer, and these devices are notoriously inaccurate. Even if the device was calibrated very recently, there’s a very good chance that the reading will be off.
After administering the test on the road, the arresting officer will take you back to the police station or to a hospital for further testing. This is where the true Breathalyzer test comes in, and the results will be different from those of the roadside test. If the difference is significant, your attorney will have additional ammunition to use during your trial.
In the end, refusing to take a breath test is a bad idea. It might seem like a smart move that allows you to avoid implicating yourself, but that’s not the case. In fact, it opens up a wealth of other consequences that go beyond what would have been possible had you simply taken the test as requested. If you’re pulled over for suspected DUI and asked to take a breath test, do it. Then, be sure to call an expert California DUI attorney.