Michael A. Ferraro, Esq., P.C.

What Happens When A Breathalyzer Is Refused?

If a person refuses to take a breathalyzer test, he or she may still be charged with a DWI or be penalized due to the implied consent law.

Alcohol plays a role in some traffic accidents in New York. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, crashes that involved drunk drivers resulted in the deaths of 3,752 people over the course of nine years. Because driving under the influence can be so detrimental, agencies across the state have set up sobriety checkpoints designed to crack down on those who drive after drinking. It is common for breath tests to be administered at these checkpoints. However, not all drivers want to participate in the breathalyzer.

Field Sobriety Tests May Be Administered

The machines used at sobriety checkpoints are designed to estimate the blood alcohol content of a person. However, this is not the only method that can be used to determine whether someone has been drinking before getting behind the wheel. Someone stopped at a checkpoint may be asked to walk a straight line, answer simple questions or recite the alphabet. Of course, a person could fail these tests for other reasons besides being drunk, but it gives the law enforcement reason for suspicion.

In other words, when a person refuses to take a breathalyzer test, he or she is not necessarily ensuring that there will not be a driving while intoxicated charge filed against him or her. It can be reported that there was a smell of alcoholic beverage in the car or on the driver’s breath. Sometimes this testimony is enough for a person to be charged.

Driver’s License Can Be Suspended

Many states have implied consent, which applies to anyone who has a driver’s license. The implied consent means that anyone who gets behind the wheel agrees to take a breathalyzer test when requested. If the test is refused, the driver could face penalties which are often similar to or worse than the penalties for driving while drunk, so long as the person is not above a 0.18 blood alcohol content, which could lead to being charged with an aggravated DWI.

In New York, for example, when a person refuses to take a breathalyzer test for the first time, he or she may lose the driver’s license for an entire year. If the driver refuses the test in another situation a few years later, the penalty can increase. Most drivers should agree to take a breathalyzer test when it is requested because of the implications of the implied consent law and because they may not be above the legal limit.

The state of New York allows sobriety checkpoints, which means many drivers may be asked to take a breathalyzer. If a side-of-the-road test indicates a person is driving over the legal limit, it may be beneficial to work with an attorney who is familiar with driving while intoxicated charges.