Can You Refuse to Take a Breathalyzer Test?
One of the most common questions we receive at Coolidge Law is, “What happens if you refuse to take a blood alcohol test?” This question has different answers. It also raises other questions like, “Can you refuse a breathalyzer and request a blood test?” and “What happens if I refuse a preliminary blood alcohol test?”
In today’s article, we will discuss everything you need to know about the different types of blood alcohol tests, what happens if you refuse a blood alcohol test, and why you should immediately contact an experienced DUI defense attorney if you’re pulled over on suspicion of a DUI in Arizona.
What Are The Different Types of Blood Alcohol Tests?
Law enforcement employs a few different methods for determining your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If you’re pulled over for suspected drunk driving, the first of these blood alcohol tests you’ll be asked to take is called a preliminary breath test (PBT). This is a portable unit carried by officers on patrol. It can be used to give them sufficient evidence to arrest you and test you further. It’s within your rights to refuse a roadside PBT test.
If you’re arrested for DUI, you’ll be taken back to the station and asked to submit to the second of these blood alcohol tests, the breathalyzer test. Sometimes called an intoxilyzer, this instrument is more accurate than the roadside PBT, and they’re required to be calibrated every 30 days. You should request a lawyer before submitting to a breathalyzer test.
The third blood alcohol test is called an ethanol test and it directly tests the alcohol in your bloodstream. A medical professional will take a small sample of your blood, and analyze it to determine the level of ethanol in your blood. This process usually takes less than five minutes. Like the breathalyzer test, it’s within your rights to request legal council before submitting to an ethanol test.
What Happens if You Refuse to Take a Blood Alcohol Test?
Refusing a PBT
Refusing to submit to the roadside PBT is not only within your rights, it’s encouraged from a legal standpoint. You have a fifth-amendment right, not to incriminate yourself, and you can exercise it by politely refusing to answer questions or submit to a PBT. Check out this article that we wrote last year about what to do if you’re pulled over for drunk driving.
Penalties for Refusing the Breathalyzer or Ethanol Test
You do not have the “right” to refuse the intoxilyzer breath test or ethanol blood test in Arizona. This is because Arizona is an Implied Consent state. When you apply for a driver’s license in Arizona, you check a box that says you agree to submit to breath, blood, or urine tests at the request of an Arizona police officer. If you do refuse a blood alcohol test, you’re breaking implied consent laws. This comes with some stiff penalties.
Refusing to submit to the intoxilyzer breath test or ethanol blood test will result in the immediate suspension of your driver’s license for 12 months. Repeat refusals in a seven year period will result in even longer suspensions. Additionally, if you refuse the breathalyzer and are convicted of a DUI, the mandatory minimum sentence is twice what it would be if you had submitted to the breathalyzer test.
You should insist on speaking to an attorney before submitting to the breathalyzer or blood ethanol tests. This is not the same as refusing the test. You have a legal right to seek council before being submitted to a blood alcohol test. Keep in mind that officers will not wait longer than two hours from the time they pulled you over to gather the breath test evidence. It’s widely accepted that breathalyzer and blood test evidence “expires” after two hours. It makes the state’s case more difficult to prove if the BAC evidence is gathered outside the two hour window.
Not having the results of a breath or blood test can help you win a legal case with an experienced attorney, but you should be prepared for a lengthy and expensive legal battle. For that reason, we recommend that you request legal counsel before submitting to a breath or blood test. Request legal counsel as soon as possible after being stopped by the officer. Law enforcement officers will not wait for an attorney to return your call if it interferes with gathering evidence.
Can I Refuse the Breathalyzer and Request a Blood Test Instead?
No. Police departments are not equipped to provide you with a blood test at the station. If you refuse the breathalyzer test, you will not be given the option to take a blood test instead. You may, however, seek your own blood test, at your own expense, and it’s a good idea to do so. Law enforcement must accommodate your right to seek your own medical evidence, including releasing you within three hours.
Seek Legal Council Immediately
You should always seek legal counsel immediately if you’re pulled over for suspected DUI.
You have a very narrow window, so don’t wait—call as soon as possible.
Todd Coolidge has over 20 years of experience representing individuals facing DUI and OWI charges. He has the legal expertise to negotiate a reduced sentence, or even have your charges dropped.
Contact Todd Coolidge today if you or a loved one are facing DUI charges in Arizona.